Thursday, November 26, 2015

It's Not War, It's Personal

Reel To Reel: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

Going Rate: Worth full price admission
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore
Rated: PG-13
Red Flags: Intense action violence

Some of you wanted to see the evil President Snow of Panem go up in flames, perhaps with somebody snarking "Extra crispy!" as it happened. Sorry, folks, you ain't gettin' it.

The conclusion of the Hunger Games series wallows through the moral ambiguities of a bloody revolution where freedom is the rallying cry, but control is the goal. It has a lot to say about war, sacrifice and tyranny against a backdrop of nightmarish battle sequences interposed with its heroine recovering from nearly getting killed time and again.

Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) is in one of those recovery phases as the picture begins, while her love Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson) is strapped in an isolation chamber. Medics work to deprogram him from a highly potent Capitol brainwashing technique that sends him into fits of rage. The rebellion against President Snow (Donald Sutherland, again deliciously evil) is making progress towards the Capitol, and the 12 districts are unifying for the final push. District 13 president and rebellion leader Alma Coin (Moore) says Katniss' work is done; she should rest and let the rebels finish their work. When victory is theirs, the new government will fly her in for the surrender ceremony.

Our heroine won't have it that way. She wants President Snow dead for everybody he's killed or harmed, including Peeta. Snow's decadence eats at her, and she wants to settle more than a few old scores. Katniss sneaks onto a transport and eventually falls in with a "star squad" whose purpose is to make more propaganda films a safe distance away from the front lines. Still, they have to avoid "pods:" creatively diabolical booby traps scattered across abandoned parts of the Capitol. Once you see what these pods do, you realize the Geneva Convention doesn't exist in Panem -- or maybe they just ignore it. As Katniss and her crew get closer to the presidential mansion and the casualties mount, so do a few uncomfortable truths. She realizes what she desires from the revolution and what might actually happen are growing further apart, and she has to wonder, is she a pawn?

As I said in my review of Mockingjay Part 1, I don't consider The Hunger Games science fiction as much as social-science fiction. The gizmos and special effects don't drive this story -- it's the complex world devised by Suzanne Collins with its broad themes of power versus liberty interposed with the horrors of war on a deeply personal level. This is not one of those 1980's sci-fi actioners where Arnold Schwarzenegger or Chuck Norris would beat the pulp out of President Snow at the end. It's good for your grey matter, but fercryinoutloud, let's have a little bit more fashion sense than the people in the Capitol.

Mockingjay - Part 2 wraps everything up, but it still leaves some wiggle room for another film. Whether Collins and Hollywood want that to happen is up to them, but I can see the possibilities. These four films have laid a lot of groundwork and planted seeds. We'll see if somebody wants another reaping, er, harvest.