I’m a huge fan of the current movement of having strong female protagonists in films – from Juno’s pregnant teen to Insurgent’s Tris to True Grit’s Mattie Ross and of course, the best of them all, The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen. Katniss has had to travel a long road but, throughout her trials, she has never really been one for self-pity. This is even true when her somewhat misguided desire to keep those around her alive has often led to their downfall.
In the final installment in the series, the second half (or rather back two-thirds) of Mockingjay, we catch up with Katniss as she is trying to understand what her life has become, and the peril she has put the people around her in. She is still in District 13, and has a lot of responsibility on her shoulders. Aside from having to figure out a way to stop Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) from killing her – his mind has been hijacked by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) so that he can be a weapon against Katniss – she must also consider how much she can trust District 13’s President Coin (an equally badass Julianne Moore). On top of all that, Katniss has to wrestle with the duties that come with being The Mockingjay, the symbol of the rebellion being led by Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Plutarch Heavensbee (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman).
Once the action gets going, as Katniss goes to fight in District 2, I was on board. I’ll admit there were points when, thanks to some of the action sequences, I involuntarily made animal-like sounds out of genuine surprise and fear. It was something I can’t say I’ve done in a theater since watching Jurassic Park at age 14. I liked that the movie deviated from the book in places, but still kept the cleverness (the incorporation of the various lethal “pods” in particular) of the source material. While the story ends in the same fashion as the book, I wouldn’t say it is a happy one.
There are a few things about Katniss that I STILL struggle with, and I think it’s the way the character was written. There are times in the story when almost any sane person would give up, or actively find someone else to help them along the journey. Katniss doesn’t. Considering how the character is portrayed, l always found it hard to put a finger on why she would fight in the way she does. Are her motivations fueled by bravery, selflessness, cluelessness, or is it just plain craziness? Perhaps a more fleshed out look at her life in the Seam, the poorest area of her home region of District 12, could have provided these answers.
Despite these minor issues, I think Katniss embodies a superhero model that other films could learn from. She’s got skill with a bow and arrow (with a terrific scene in this film), cares about her family, and represents what real people feel – that the tyrannical Capitol has to go, and that people should rise up. Jennifer Lawrence has been consistently good throughout and always ensured that Katniss felt like a real woman – a normal looking individual, who cried when appropriate and never went out of her way to get the boys to like her…they just did.
Overall, I love this series. While not a popular stance, I firmly believe breaking the last book into 2 films was actually a good idea. It allowed the films to expand on the world established in the text, even if they did add some extra padding created specifically for the film. Ultimately The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is a fitting finale to a terrific dystopian story.