It’s not Star Wars or The Avengers, but The Hunger Games might go down as one of the most consequential franchises of the blockbuster era. Four films, billions of dollars at the global box office. And at the heart of it: a woman. Jennifer Lawrence might be the most important American movie star alive right now, proving repeatedly that she is not only a critical darling but a bankable superstar. Playing Katniss Everdeen has elevated her to rarified air for an actress, and her every move and quote is studied and scrutinized.
Sort of like Katniss. She is the Mockingjay, a reluctant symbol of defiance that has fanned the flames of revolution and put the decadent 1 percent of the Capitol on the precipice of annihilation. The cameras are always on her, in order to inspire the rebelling districts, but in the final film based on Suzanne Collins’ dystopian YA trilogy, she has her sights set on President Snow (Donald Sutherland) — and it’s personal.
Picking up, quite literally, one page after Mockingjay — Part 1 ended, Part 2 features Katniss still juggling her two suitors: the increasingly militant Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and the disturbed Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), who’s been brainwashed to kill Katniss. Snow is still the cackling tyrant who needs to be overthrown, but the regime-in-waiting — led by Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) — present a more nuanced view of good and evil and the pursuit of power.
The Games of the previous films might be over, but the assault on the Capitol is complicated by a gauntlet of deadly traps, and Mockingjay 2 is rated PG-13 for sound reasons. “Collins’ source material always fell outside the conventional YA curve — it is, after all, about kids killing kids for sport—but she also placed her dystopian themes inside a balanced moral universe, and gave us a female protagonist who was smart and complicated and thrillingly self-determined,” writes EW’s Leah Greenblatt, in her B- review. “The first two films managed the challenge of visually presenting the books’ violence without tipping into territory their target demo couldn’t handle. Mockingjay, though, strays too far into darkness.”
For the rest of Greenblatt’s review and a collection of other critics’ opinions, scroll below.
Leah Greenblatt (Entertainment Weekly)
“With its political power struggles and prodigious body count, all rendered in a thousand shades of wintry greige, the movie feels less like teen entertainment than a sort of Hunger Games of Thrones. The acting and production values are still well above grade, and Lawrence skillfully holds the center, letting everything the skeletal dialogue doesn’t say play across her face. Like the arrow-slinging, empire-saving Joan of Archery she’s portraying, she understands the symbolic weight she’s been asked to carry here. If only it didn’t have to hang so heavy.”
Michael O’Sullivan (Washington Post)
“As the dystopian epic’s emotional, moral and physical heart, Lawrence once again delivers the best reason to stick with it. Closing out the franchise inspired by Suzanne Collins’s literary trilogy, Mockingjay — Part 2 picks up virtually where Part 1 left off: with a close-up on Lawrence’s battered face. Her expression, full of steely resolve, commands our attention in a way that the film that follows does only sporadically.”
Ty Burr (Boston Globe)
“The new movie stands as a sizable improvement on last year’s truncated Mockingjay — Part 1, but the reasons for bisecting the final novel in Suzanne Collins’s best-selling trilogy remain murky, more a matter of greed than narrative coherence. Whatever: If you’ve followed The Hunger Games this far, the fourth and final installment brings the story to a brutal but satisfying conclusion. If you’re a newcomer who has merely wandered into the wrong theater, it’ll seem like what it is: the Saving Private Ryan of dystopian teen flicks.”
Rene Rodriguez (Miami Herald)
“Grim, relentless and immensely satisfying, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 sends out the dystopian sci-fi franchise on a feel-bad high. Readers of Suzanne Collins’ source novel, who already know what’s coming, will be pleased by the movie’s merciless fidelity to the source material… For the rest of us, who only know The Hunger Games through its wildly uneven movies, Mockingjay – Part 2 is proof that there really was more going on here all along than derivative allegories, shallow cultural commentary and trite young-adult angst.”
David Edelstein (New York)
“I’m not slighting Mockingjay — Part 2 when I say that it ends less with a bang than a whimper. There’s regrowth, but not enough — yet — to compensate for what’s gone. I wish every war movie ended on a note of loss, and maybe with more female writer-directors on the horizon (excluding Kathryn Bigelow, who gives men penis envy), more war movies will. In the meantime, this is the rare superhero saga in which the hero isn’t her true self until she can shed her costume and live in a world that has no need of symbols.”
Manohla Dargis (New York Times) ▲
“What makes the material still feel personal — other than the yearslong investment and love that transform entertainments into fan communities — is the combination of Katniss and Ms. Lawrence, who have become a perfect fit. Ms. Lawrence now inhabits the role as effortlessly as breathing, partly because, like all great stars, she seems to be playing a version of her “real” self. It’s the kind of realness that can give you and the movie a jolt, as in a scene with Ms. Lawrence and a sensationally raw Jena Malone that thrusts it into that place where heroes and villains give way to something like life.”
Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times)
“So if Part 1 ended on Page 177 of the book, with a brainwashed and delusional Peeta attempting to throttle Katniss (oh, the horror …), Part 2 begins on the very next page, with Katniss trying to cope with her injuries. Even Saturday matinee cliffhanger serials, of which these films are in a sense the modern version, worked harder to bring generalists up to speed.”
Richard Roeper (Chicago Sun-Times)
“The blending of CGI and practical effects is impressive, but at times it’s difficult to discern just who’s getting shot or beaten or otherwise taken out, especially during an extended sequence set in underground passageways. Largely gone are the glorious colors and the sometimes comically over-the-top pageantry of some of the previous films. This is primarily a war movie, with no guarantees all your favorite remaining characters are going to make it to the finish line.”
Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter)
“Sutherland, who, after exuding pestilential inhumanity and condescension for three and a half films, saves the best for last; even in the face of his unquestioned demise, he can only regard the upstart Katniss with a look of amused disdain, followed by profound ironic laughter that echoes Walter Huston’s at the end of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre; in fact, the moment is cut too short.”
Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle)
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 is the last film of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died during filming, which I guess means that he went out on a banana peel. But it doesn’t feel that way to see him. Here was an actor incapable of a false moment, who had a strange gift for finding truth in the midst of the ridiculous and the interesting in the mundane. He appears in only a few brief scenes, but he’s so magnetic — what was it about that guy? — that in those seconds the movie just comes alive.”
Peter Debruge (Variety)
“The one death no one could have foreseen, that of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, adds welcome resonance to his scenes as gamemaster Plutarch Heavensbee…. Though the script adheres to Collins’ novel, everything that follows [what should be Plutarch’s last scene] feels extraneous, with a succession of endings straining the patience somewhat. While the series remarkably managed to sustain its cast and credibility across four increasingly ambitious features, Francis Lawrence doesn’t quite recognize when it’s game over.”
Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 65
Rotten Tomatoes: 70 percent
Length: 134 minutes
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Julianne Moore
Directed by Francis Lawrence