Real or not real: ‘The Hunger Games’ franchise is coming to an end

BY CLARE O’GARA

On Nov. 20, the last movie installment of “The Hunger Games” series, “Mockingjay: Part 2” was released in U.S. cinemas. This final motion picture marks the epic conclusion to a novel-and-film collection that’s been in the making since 2008. Everyone’s favorite Girl on Fire Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) suits up one last time to take down the oppressive dictatorship of President Snow (and perhaps another character as well) on the front lines of the war in Panem, all while battling both gunfire and the moral grounds of those close to her and attempting to regain the relationship she lost with the recently mentally-hijacked Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). In essence, the movie compacts the last half of Suzanne Collins’s “Mockingjay” into 137 minutes of action, emotion, lizard mutts and dandelions.
Let’s just say, this film certainly doesn’t disappoint.
“Mockingjay: Part 2” marks a genuine culmination of all that has occurred over the course of these three books and four movies. We finally see each and every character receive a satisfying and fully developed personality arc (except that-one-character-we’re-all-bitter- about-because-he-was-murdered-by-mutant-lizard-mutts), each worrisome plot point finally resolved, and the ongoing civil war between “Team Peeta” and “Team Gale” finally declaring its victor. It’s a fantastic finale for this series, at long last providing such a powerful story with the conclusion it always deserved.
Jennifer Lawrence’s performance is perhaps her best out of all four films. Moment by moment, play by play, she provides Katniss with detailed character development that seems so effortless for the actress, particularly in a specific cat scene that some proclaim should give Jlaw her nomination in the 2016 Academy Awards.
Josh Hutcherson too, who in this film must play a boy utterly ravaged by torture and mental suffering, does so with the accuracy and precision of an Oscar winner.
If you were disappointed by the apparent lack of action found in “Mockingjay: Part 1” (which, to be clear, I was not), then certainly don’t worry. Part 2 will give you everything you pleaded so desperately for and more. Whether it’s sprinting through sewers riddled with lizard mutts, dodging black tar, enduring sprays of bullets, or running past explosions, the high levels of violence in this film never cease to bore the observer. This is full-fledged war movie, above all things, and its sequences surpass all prior films of the franchise except perhaps “Catching Fire,” whose intense beach-and-jungle scenes are arguably impossible to out-do.
Those who have seen “Catching Fire” will also be happy to know that Katniss no longer has infinate arrows in the quiver of hers.
But, of course, there’s more to “Mockingjay: Part 2” than mere flames and ceaseless gunfire. This movie intricately balances the major concepts of love, death and war that trace themselves back to the very first novel of the series. We begin to unravel Katniss’s morals in this installment, discovering that she and her hunting partner, Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) no longer see eye-to-eye on the subject of civilian casualties.
And maybe I’m biased, being on the side of “Team Peeta” myself, but Katniss’s statement of what was, in essence, “bye Felicia,” directed toward Gale, still remains a personal favorite scene of mine from this recent film.
Of course, not all of the feedback behind this movie has been positive.
The overwhelming reason for discontent over “Mockingjay: Part 2” by reviewers comes with the claim that the film is too “dark” and “depressing,” and that it failed to conclude itself in the way that many audiences had hoped.
But to this complaint, I ask a single question:
Did. You. Read. The. Freaking. Book?
Because Katniss’s story–one of murdered children, PTSD, being strangled by the boy she loves, war and familial death–does not seem like a tale that merits unicorns and rainbows. Readers and unabashed fans of this franchise understand this more than anyone.
Because, although every audience member should and will adore “Mockingjay: Part 2” (unless your heart is made of stone), in the end it is a film designed for fans of the franchise above everyone else. Even I’ll admit that the motion picture itself isn’t necessarily inclusive to all viewers; those who haven’t read the series may find themselves entirely confused throughout the movie, as scenes tend to change quickly and, without prior knowledge, it’s difficult to keep up with.
But, the way I view it, you brought that down upon yourself for refusing to engage in the activity of reading.
Without the sense familiarity and understanding associated with reading a novel prior to its film installment, “Mockingjay: Part 2” would likely feel like an incomplete experience. Everything makes about 1000 percent more sense when you notice the parallels, miniscule details woven in by director Francis Lawrence, and when you know how significant it is that Katniss’s dress in the final scene of the movie is patterned with dandelions.
This is a conclusion that, for many, surpasses the grandeur of “The Deathly Hallows: Part 2.” For dedicated fans, the experience of sitting in a theater for “Mockingjay: Part 2” is far different than merely watching a film in which they have no idea what the outcome will be or the plot-twists it will hold. Instead, it’s like finally being able to visualize something that for so many years has simply been written out on paper. To look at a screen and to see your favorite characters, events, and thematic topics reach their closing point.
It is these individuals who sob waterfalls during the final scenes of “Mockingjay: Part 2,” full of Katniss/Peeta romance, questions of “real or not real,” intermingled with children, a new president and flowers because for them it truly allows a story they adore so unconditionally to finally come full circle.
And if you don’t make a movie for your fans then what are you making it for, anyway?