And so we come to the end of the girl on fire. The Mockingjay has flown the nest. And where to now for our flawed feminist hero? Where for our moral lessons? Where to go to ask the question: would you fight, or would you die?
If you’ve read Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, and followed the first three films, then you won’t be surprised to learn that no true surprises await you in The Mockingjay: Part 2. Throughout this sequence of adaptations, each better wrought than the last, one thing has held true: there are no real deviations from the script.
What there is instead is an enervation, a bringing to life – where, conversely, you could argue that the likes of Harry Potter lost some magic in the process of filmic adaptation, the Mockingjay gains it, in the form of colour and characterisation and bold political satire.
We enter the plot of The Mockingjay as the rebels prepare to attack the Capitol. In order to do so, they must first disable District 2’s weaponry. And then they must rally the failing soldiers of the beleaguered districts into laying down their lives one last time. To do it for the Mockingjay.
Katniss, at this point, is no hero. Strong, yes, and brave – but nothing more than a figurehead of a greater cause, stricken by too many deaths and too much pressure. The presence of Peeta is a visual representation of her own certainty that her existence causes more pain than it does pleasure. Early on, she escapes the claustrophobic District 13 and makes her way to the frontline, where she joins the faces we love best: Gale. Finnick. Cressida. My goodness, do we have strong feelings for Cressida’s face. And that’s where everything begins: and ends.
Perhaps the strongest thing to be said for this, the final movie, is that despite the fact that there are no surprises, there are a multitude of shocks. As the team invade the city, we know full well that President Snow has laid traps. We might even know where they are, and what they’ll do. But that, in no way, detracts from the horror. Make no mistake: having read the book a myriad of times will not prevent you from grabbing the arm rests in agony.
The muttations are coming. Katnissss. Katnisssss.
At this point, we hardly need to devote precious word count to the precocious Jennifer Lawrence, who shines despite a blinding cast of stars. The gritted teeth and desperate eyes of the Mockingjay keep you urging her forward to the final, horrific denouement, and a betrayal of her is a betrayal of us all.
As a brief aside, you know the recent study that proclaimed that all women are, at the least, bisexual? I argue that Katniss, with the bow-string drawn to her upper lip, is the cause of a good chunk of that. We’ve all fallen for her, despite knowing how easily she would tear us apart.
There’s a love story here, of course: the Peeta VS Gale battle that’s been raging since the nightlock, but it’s permitted to be fully secondary to Katniss’ love for her family and her desire for revenge. Perhaps the only sentimental nod to teenage hormones we’re granted is a conversation between the two males, in which it’s made clear: Katniss will choose, and that will be that. They don’t get a say, and they know that.
Those expecting a cry fest (I was) might find themselves disappointed, as the moments that might have been bathed in pathos are instead smoothed over and bypassed, as stony as Katniss’ eyes. It’s both a nod to the necessary outcomes of war, and to Katniss’ inability to process her own grief, and while you might not be sobbing aloud you will find yourself remembering, along with Katniss, Joanna’s statement in the second film: “They can’t hurt me. There’s no one left that I love”.
There’s not enough Joanna, and not nearly enough Haymitch, but there’s enough of the snarling, bloody-throated President Snow to make up for both of those.
The fight scenes and the crowd scenes are epic to levels that the former films couldn’t hope to match. And thanks to some seamless editing, you’ll never even notice any holes that must have resulted from Phillip Seymour Hoffman passing away during filming.
The final word? This film wraps up a deserving series of movies with elegance and anger and aplomb. You might come away bereft, but you won’t be left wanting.
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