Film Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

by Keith Hill

Rated M. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth. Directed by Francis Lawrence.

Welcome to the fourth annual instalment of The Hunger Games! The Games are nearly over, and there can only be one winner.

The final instalment of the Hunger Games franchise, Mockingjay – Part 2 follows hot on the heels of Part 1. After the successful rescue of the Victors, Peeta and Johanna, who had been tortured by President Snow, the attention of President Coin and the rebels turns to fully uniting the 13 Districts and taking the Capitol.

Chafing at her role as the rebel’s propaganda piece – ‘The Mockingjay’ – Katniss sneaks off to the Capitol alone, hoping to confront and assassinate Snow for what he did to Peeta, and free Panem from his tyranny. Coin and the gamemaker, Plutarch Heavensbee, catch wind of her plan, and attach a special forces unit to her, with the intention of shooting more propaganda films to inspire the rebels and break the will of the Capitol.

The unit soon find themselves in a real life version of the Hunger Games, as they make their way through the booby-trapped suburbs and underground of the Capitol, anticipating their final showdown with Snow.

Part 2 continues the darkness that characterised Part 1, building on its predecessors political undertones, but adding to it much more of the physical violence that characterised the first two movies, making this perhaps the bleakest installment yet. A scene in the sewers of the Capitol where the unit is pursued by alien-like ‘mutts’ is worthy of just about any horror film. Katniss finds herself growing tired of her role as the face of the propaganda war, and struggles with the tension between her own need for revenge, and the rebellion’s increasing willingness to defeat the Capitol regardless of the collateral damage that may be left in its wake. She pushes back against Gale, unable to join him in justifying questionable battle tactics that fail to differentiate between combatant and civilian. Katniss’s own struggles force us to contemplate our own response to the real life events that we see and read about in the news every day, and the battle scenes vividly bring the point home.

As a film, Mockingjay – Part 2 often feels quite unbalanced. The film drags somewhat at certain points where it didn’t need to, yet passes quickly over the important, climactic scenes with little explanation about what’s happening, or why. At one point of the film, the unit seems to take a day off, sitting around in a vacated apartment in the Capitol eating lollies and watching TV, before finally deciding what their next move should be. And perhaps too much time is given over to the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale, awkwardly played out before the rest of the unit.

The questionable war tactics engaged in by both the Capitol and the rebels begins to raise a question that finally bubbles to the surface as the war moves towards a conclusion – will the overthrow of President Snow and the Capitol bring any lasting change to Panem? Is permanent peace now possible, or is this conflict really a symptom of a deeper problem that lies under the surface of every person? In a bleak assessment of humanity, Katniss acknowledges how quickly it is that we forget how hard-won peace is, and fall back into conflict with one another. There is hope for Panem, but ultimately it is only short-lived.

The Bible’s assessment on humanity is remarkably similar to that of Katniss. The conflict and violence we see out there in the world is merely a symptom of what is wrong within all of us. Yet in contrast to the peace that Katniss hopes for in Panem, the Bible offers something more permanent. A solution that gets to the very heart of our problem and brings for us a permanent peace. This isn’t achieved by the overthrow of a violent dictator, or the annual sacrifice of a child from each district to satiate the Capitol’s need for vengeance. Instead, Colossians 1:15–20 shows us the voluntary self-sacrifice of the one created all things, on behalf of those who had rebelled and attempted to overthrow him. It is only through the self-sacrifice of God’s own son, a once-for-all sacrifice, that permanent peace is held out to all who will come to him in faith.

The Verdict: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is a climactic conclusion to the series. The film gives genuine pause for thought though its political commentary, and manages to both ramp up the tension and tug on the heartstrings at points, though the uneven pacing and need for a happy ending disfigure the final result. 3/5

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 will be released worldwide later this week.

For more film reviews from a Christian perspective, connect with Reel Gospel on Facebook and Twitter.

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