“The Hunger Games,” a trilogy in its original book form but an overstretched quartet in movie form, concludes with some padding but also in-the-line-of-fire action and suspense and big, impressive special effects.
Best of all, Jennifer Lawrence continues her passionate work as the series’ brave and principled archer/heroine, Katniss Everdeen.
Fortunately, there’s less padding in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2” than in last year’s “Mockingjay — Part 1.” As previously seen in the “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” movies, the profits-motivated tendency to break books in two yields mixed results.
“Mockingjay — Part 1,” despite some inspirational scenes, is a slow and brooding excuse for a movie. On the rebound, “Mockingjay — Part 2” runs a long two hours and 17 minutes, but it offers extended, edge-of-your-seat sequences featuring Katniss and her rebel team’s dangerous infiltration of Penam’s ruling city of elites, The Capitol.
Much of “Mockingjay — Part 2” covers Penam’s formerly underdog rebels’ preparation to take the once all-powerful Capitol. Tables have turned since 2012’s first “Hunger Games” movie, which introduced Lawrence as the series’ then-girl heroine, Katniss.
Katniss was originally a pawn in President Snow’s cruel Hunger Games. The games pitted 24, lottery-selected contestants from the 12 rebel districts in nationally broadcast fights to the death. The immorality of the games is driven home by the ages of the combatants: 12 to 18 years old.
Katniss emerged as a celebrated Hunger Games victor. As the series progressed, she became The Capitol’s worst nightmare — an inspiring symbol for the revolution.
In “Mockingjay — Part 2,” the Katniss character and the Oscar-winning actress who plays her, remains the series’ compelling centerpiece.
Some of the more effective moments in “Mockingjay — Part 2” feature Lawrence alone on camera. She projects Katniss’ complexity — her strength, courage, determination and fear — without saying a word. And the actress’ scenes with just one other character, such as her pivotal, intimate conversation with fellow rebel Johanna Mason (Jena Malone), show how deeply Lawrence lives as Katniss.
No wonder the rebel forces, led by Oscar-winner Julianne Moore’s cool-headed, Hillary Clinton-like President Alma Coin, choose Katniss as the face of the revolution, aka the Mockingjay.
“Mockingjay — Part 2” is a huge production that marshals many characters with speaking roles and legions of extras. Nonetheless, the film is largely about two characters. Katniss and her greatest enemy, President Snow. It gets personal for both of them.
Donald Sutherland returns as Snow, Penam’s wickedly smiling, softly poisonous dictator. He is a monster worthy of Katniss’ hot vengeance. But Snow’s fate in “Mockingjay — Part 2” is muted. Some late-in-the-game plot developments turn too obvious.
“Mockingjay — Part 2” feels like a victory. It’s satisfying, too, that “The Hunger Games” movies end with finality, or at least no obvious hint that there’s more to come.
Katniss’ heroic work is done.