“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.
As previously seen in the “Harry Potter” and “Twilight Saga” movies, the profit motive that breaks the final book of a movie franchise in two can yield mixed results. Fortunately, there’s less padding in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2” than its predecessor.
That movie, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1,” is a slow and brooding excuse for a film, despite some inspirational scenes. On the rebound, “Mockingjay — Part 2,” while running a long two hours and 16 minutes, contains extended, edge-of-your-seat sequences featuring a dangerous infiltration by Katniss and her rebel team into Penam’s ruling city of elites, The Capitol.
Much of “Mockingjay — Part 2” covers Penam’s formerly underdog rebels as they prepare to take the once all-powerful Capitol. Tables have turned since 2012’s first “Hunger Games” movie, which introduced a young Katniss as 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 remain the compelling centerpiece of “The Hunger Games.” By the time the first “Hunger Games” appeared, Lawrence had already earned an Oscar nomination for 2010’s “Winter’s Bone.” She later won the Oscar for “Silver Linings Playbook,” released the same year as “The Hunger Games 1.”
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,” a huge production that marshals many characters with speaking roles and legions of extras, nonetheless is largely about two characters: Katniss and the man she sees as her greatest enemy, President Snow. It gets personal for both of them.
Donald Sutherland returns as Snow, Penam’s wickedly smiling, softly poisonous dictator; a monster worthy of Katniss’ hot vengeance. But Snow’s fate in “Mockingjay — Part 2” is muted. Some late plot developments turn too obvious.
Though it feels too long, on balance “Mockingjay — Part 2” wins. That’s a tribute to Lawrence’s commitment to Katniss, and also to some of the best action scenes in the entire series. It’s also satisfying 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.