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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2

The Hunger Games has proved a resilient franchise, largely because of the perfect fit of its main character Katniss Everdeen with the actor who plays her, the hard-working Jennifer Lawrence. Compare the Divergent series which suffers from its lead, Shailene Woodley, being almost too smart to play the visceral Beatrice Prior with the animal abandon that Lawrence gives her performances. Katniss is simple, Beatrice more complex, which requires more of Woodley and Divergent’s writers to hold the attention of the teeny bopper crowd, a crowd lacking the sophistication to see all the strands of plot and strategy that Beatrice has to manage. For Katniss it’s all so simple: kill President Snow and everything will be fine. Or will it?

Games has been dismissed as simplistic, and therefore better blockbuster material than Divergent. It is true that it is basically a rebellion story with an interesting premise that gets somewhat worn out by the last part. It’s also true that its simplicity enables it to draw in the big crowds. The audience knows where they stand in The Hunger Games; there are no real guessing games here. Blockbuster audiences want to see good things happen with the good guys winning and the bad guys going down. Only a clever twist at the end of the series (better handled in the books than in the movies) turns this relentlessly hero-driven story into a more balanced, if still sunnily optimistic, tale.

Divergent on the other hand begins with a complexity that sustains an uncertainty throughout the series so far. The audience is presented with characters who are each capable of good and evil, love and hate, respect and disdain in a mixture that subtly reflects real human existence in a fallen world. The viewer is sure of Beatrice, but almost any other character in the circle of friends who are the rebels in the futuristic world could turn at any time and surface as having been an enemy spy all along. This story strategy makes for a better story long-term, but in the short term can confuse simplistic theater-goers and lose ticket sales a more stream-lined adventure story wouldn’t.

Having said all this, Mockingjay, Part 2, often shows off the gifts of a very good cast, and ends the story with a bang. While none of the special effects include anything worth writing home about, they are all efficiently done and fit the story well. Of course the superb Lawrence really does carry the show, but her supporting cast including actors as good as Donald Sutherland and Julianne Moore form just what a supporting cast in an action/adventure movie should: an environment in which the story thrives and its star shines. Enjoy it, if futuristic action/adventure movies are your thing, while you can.

And if you don’t like The Hunger Games, there’s always Star Wars.

Drew Trotter

November 21, 2015

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