By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The hunger for The Hunger Games – this will be four movies in four consecutive years -- continues. And ends.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is the fourth and final movie installment in the science fiction franchise based on the futuristic dystopian fantasies of Young Adult novelist Suzanne Collins.
Based on the second half of the climactic final book in the trilogy, it follows The Hunger Games (2012), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2103), and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014) to the movie screen.
Part 1 was a respectable bridge, an appetite whetter for Part 2, which is slightly more engaging and satisfying than its predecessor and lets the "games" thrust that was the focus of the first two installments before disappearing in the third at least tiptoe back into play.
This chapter picks up where the last one left off but does not kick off by catching us up. We're on our own.
We're in Panem, or what used to be North America, which is ruled by an oppressive totalitarian government. But there's a rebellion underway, aimed at ruthless President Snow, played by Donald Sutherland, who now finds himself in an escalating war.
Heroine Katniss Everdeen, played once again by Jennifer Lawrence, remains the reluctant leader of the rebellion, joined by the power-hungry leader of rebel base District 13, President Coin, played by Julianne Moore, and Plutarch Heavensbee (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman). She's aided by Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), and Finnick (Sam Claflin), all risking their lives to liberate Panem's citizens.
Strikingly authentic, Lawrence continues to shine as the inspirational leader sporting an iconic bow and arrow, and we feel her determination and discomfort. Meanwhile, the romantic triangle gets pushed somewhat into the background which, all things considered, is, at this point, where it belongs.
Director Francis Lawrence (no relation), who has directed all but the first installment, works from an adapted screenplay by Peter Craig and Danny Strong, who wrote Part 1 as well, that moves along relentlessly, maintains the sense of dread, and offers just enough of a political charge and sufficient insights into warfare and dealing with loss along with the large-scale military action and spectacle to help the film to resonate more meaningfully.
This is, after all is said and done, a war flick.
Neither this entry nor its immediate predecessor was quite up to the dramatic standards of the first two, and one could certainly dispute the artistic need to split the final book in the trilogy into two films instead of one. But with this satisfying conclusion, the series now goes into the books having conjured up four meritorious movies out of four.
As such franchises go, not bad. Not bad at all.
So we'll rebel against 3 stars out of 4. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is a fittingly somber end to an admirable, entertaining franchise that gamely tackles fascism, propaganda, and the cost of war.
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