Three and a half years after Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games franchise and Katniss Everdeen were first experienced in live action, the story comes to a conclusion with the latest entry, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 2, due to hit theaters on November 20. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Julianne Moore, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, and, in his final movie role, Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Building on the setup in last year's Mockingjay -- Part 1, Katniss is a known face of rebellion and Peeta begins in a state of recent brainwashing where he's not entirely sure what to believe. Forces in the background want to promote Katniss' role in the quest to defeat President Snow; Katniss, as always, has her own plans. It is this aspect of Katniss Everdeen that is most enjoyable in this series of films -- while the rest of the world is always trying to control her, Katniss ultimately always seems to do things on her own terms. She's a strong role model for young female audiences, though she is by no means perfect. Jennifer Lawrence again delivers a great performance in this final film, showing many different sides of the character throughout the film's 137-minute running time.
Being the final film in this version of the story, at least, means that things actually happen. Eventually, the hero has to face the villain -- Luke Skywalker has to fight Darth Vader -- and in this film, it isn't spoiling much to say that Katniss does face President Snow. But will the story end as expected? Unless you've already read the books, the film is liable to surprise you.
It is almost fitting that Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of the first actors seen in the first minutes of the film -- the actor, who died last year, passed away before filming was completed for his character. Fortunately, he still is in the film quite a bit. There is a moment where I'm not entirely sure he is physically there and not a CG creation, as the character doesn't speak, and there are scenes where I would expect to see his character of Plutarch where he's just not present, but aside from a scene where "a letter from Plutarch" is delivered that I assume was a speech from the character in the actual books, they did a good job of working around the loss. I will say, though, that any moment Hoffman is on screen, as an audience member, I felt a sadness that such a talent left us at such a young age.
Hoffman and Lawrence aren't the only actors worth noting in Mockingjay -- Part 2, however. Julianne Moore's Alma Coin always kept me wondering about her true game, and Josh Hutcherson played a Peeta who was having conflicts with himself. Liam Hemsworth's Gale had the same role he had in most of the series -- #2 to Peeta, no matter how hard he tries, but the material he had was worthwhile. I was also happy to see some returning faces from previous movies, including Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks as well as several contestants from earlier Hunger Games. We also revisit Katniss' mother as well as her sister Prim, who plays a pivotal role in the story.
Visually, the film is exciting, with certain set pieces looking familiar while at the same time unlike any world that we know. There are several moments throughout with the action where members of the screening audience jumped from their seats.
While hardly a die-hard Hunger Games enthusiast, I did see all four films in theaters and I did feel satisfied that I got a whole story. In the future, it'll be interesting to watch them all back-to-back and see how things evolved and possibly came full circle. Each film had a different feeling but all seemed to go toward a larger whole. I wouldn't be shocked if a way is found to further explore the universe, but for now, it seems Katniss Everdeen's journey is finished, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 2 rewards the audiences who followed Katniss on that journey.