Film and Book Reviews

Choosing the right move in the ultimate Game

FILMA dark, tense film with few moments of relief. No one will escape unscathed.

By Wendy Knowlton

December 4 2015
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) takes aim in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2.

fter surviving two Hunger Games and becoming the face of rebellion, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) seems to wield considerable power. She is the Mockingjay, the “Girl on Fire”, a symbol of hope to the oppressed citizens of Panem and a thorn in the side of its poisonous leader, President Snow (Donald Sutherland). At the first reaping she instinctively volunteered to take her sister’s place in the Games – a moment of desperate initiative and courage. Since then, however, Katniss has usually been someone’s pawn or a careful media construct designed to inspire an uprising. In this bleakly compelling finale to the Hunger Games films, her challenge is to determine who is using her, why, and whether she will numbly submit or aim her arrows at a target of her own choosing.

The thirteen districts of Panem are waging war against the decadent Capitol or each other, and pulling the strings are the ultimate Gamemakers, Snow, and leader of the resistance, President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore). It is not a simple case of evil challenged by good. Snow’s name underlines his distorted take on purity, and the blood he coughs up is an unsubtle reference to the pain and death he has inflicted. “Coin” however, suggests calculation. Whilst Snow drips with unashamed malevolence, there is something equally disturbing in Coin’s frosted perfection. After all he has done, Katniss is determined to kill Snow, but is this fixation a distraction from the real game being played?

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Such horrors erode humanity and a sense of self. Faithful Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) has been twisted by the Capitol. He no longer knows what’s real or not, whether Katniss is the girl he loves, or an evil “mutt” of the Capitol’s construction. Katniss’s childhood friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) is making weapons designed to lure new victims into a blast zone after an initial wave of death. Thoughts, feelings and identities are hijacked as the quest for victory sees truth and integrity become victims of war.

Katniss’s strength, however, has always been her compassion. On a personal level her love for her sister, Prim and her protective feelings towards Rue in her first Game define her, but she is also horrified by the rebels’ plans to slaughter resistance in District 2, and feels genuine pity for the self indulgent citizens of the Capitol, when they in their turn become casualties of the conflict. She refuses to give up on Peeta, programmed to hate and kill her, and refuses to imagine a world in which evil triumphs.

This is a dark, tense film with few moments of relief. No one will escape unscathed. Sutherland and Moore are formidable, Jena Malone’s brief moments as Joanna are memorable and Elizabeth Banks’ Effie is particularly touching. But Lawrence’s intense performance is the stand out. Katniss has acquired power through her own efforts and the publicity machine manipulating her celebrity- but is she more than a slogan, a recognisable salute or four haunting notes of music? Monster or saviour, tool or weapon, instrument of revenge or of justice? She has to decide.