'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2': Jennifer Lawrence Is the Best Female Action Legend

Katniss is her own savior. She's also a hero for a demographic that sorely needs one.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

Director: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Donald Sutherland
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Lionsgate
Year: 2015
US date: 2015-11-20 (General release)
UK date: 2015-11-13 (General release)

When the final tallies are added up and the think pieces are all in, Jennifer Lawrence will have much more than an Oscar (or two... or three) on her mantle. Her career will be a collection of highlights and half-attempts, red carpets hiccups and go-girl statements. But nothing she has accomplished so far, and one imagines, she will manage in the future, will match what she has done with The Hunger Games.

Suzanne Collins' rote retelling of Battle Royale via a Dummies Guide to Backroom Politics may not be the smartest, most pointed takedown of our power-mad governments ever crafted, but within its wonky design lives a character so strong and so memorable that she will more than likely become the idol for future generations of gender-redefining young women.

Much like comics and videogames have redefined the role of geeks in 2015, The Hunger Games has the same ability. It has and always will be the story of Katniss' struggle. It centers on who she is at the core -- a girl, a sister, and a potential partner for two lesser males. Without diving back into the series, Lawrence's take on the role has always emphasized her fierceness as well as her femininity. She's much more than her gender.

Unlike other YA figures such as Bella Thorne, Katniss is not passive. She steps in for her sibling as Tribute for the suicidal Games. She charges to save Peeta and reassure Gale. She willingly participates in the nefarious propaganda which may or may not be of value to the Revolution, and when it looks like things will take a turn for the confused, she clarifies, compartmentalizing the complications she's created for one last shot at the hero moment -- and she achieves it over and over again.

In Mockingjay Part 2, the wholly unnecessary cash grab that has come to define Hollywood's non-art arrogance, Lawrence's Katniss faces several crises. Some are external; she wants to kill President Snow (Donald Sutherland), save her sister Prim (Willow Shields), resolve her own problems with a still stumbling Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and old beau Gale (Liam Hemsworth), and deal with an increasingly suspicious rebel President Coin (Julianne Moore).

Other elements are internal, and for the first 45-minutes or so, this padded second helping spends a bit too much time on self-reflection. Yes, it makes for a much more powerful denouement once the tragedies start piling up and the raid on the Capital begins, but they add very little to what's already there, and it's a lot. We've followed Katniss for three films now, and each time her resolve has been balanced by a desire to do the right thing. Now, that's cloudy, and with such upheaval (Panem is coming apart, literally) our gal comes to the only conclusion she can. She will fight.

Once we get to the Capital, where a selection of booby traps known as pods repeat the previous films' action beats, Mockingjay Part 2 picks up. Katniss brings along buddies Gale, Peeta, Finnick (Sam Claflin) and Cressida (Natalie Dormer) to take down the despot, while back at base, Johanna (Jena Malone), Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), and Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) try to plot the country's recovery. It's in the film's second and third acts, where thrills are matched equally with chills (the underground mutants are particularly nasty) that the decision to keep director Francis Lawrence behind the lens really pays off.

As a filmmaker, he can handle the stunts and spectacle. There are sequences during the Capital assault that will remind you of the best the genre has to offer. Lawrence has really upped the ante since he first guided Catching Fire, and now with this two-part takedown of the series, he proves he should have owned it outright. (No critique on the first film's Gary Ross. Lawrence is just better at this). He understands Katniss' journey, how lonely it is, how fraught with disappointment and discovery, and she has the singular vision to pull it off.

That's why Lawrence and her character will linger. That's why The Hunger Games succeeded where Divergent, Twilight, and other attempts at female empowerment have failed. Falling in love with a sparkly immortal with a model's face is not the height of feminist purpose. Being a pawn in a Orwellian world of predetermined position also fails the form. In the Hunger Games, Collins found a way to make girls great without having to resort to men. Katniss is her own savior. It's she who must come to the boy's aid when the moments arrive.

Fed on this from the moment their parents forget to lock the Netflix account, young girls given nothing but drivel and Disney will see their own internal strife and sync with Katniss is a significant way. Like Luke Skywalker, she will be the pedestrian, plucked from obscurity, to become the One. She's Neo from The Matrix. She's Harry Potter minus the magic. But the difference here is basic, and biological. Name the last movie, let alone franchise, which created a female character like this. Luckily, the producers nabbed Lawrence as her moment was arriving. Without her, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Sure, Mockingjay Part 1 and Part 2 could have been condensed and reconfigured as one massive epic, a Return of the King minus the hour long CGI battles, but then we would have missed Katniss' complete learning curve. Bits and pieces don't build a monument. Completeness does. While it may have originally been about the billions, the one thing that will linger is the singular: Lawrence and her Katniss Everdeen. She's a hero for a demographic that sorely needs one. She's now the benchmark, and nothing is better than that.






'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?


Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.


IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.


Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.


NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.


PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.


David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.


Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".


Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.


The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.