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‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2’ Review: Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson & Liam Hemsworth

It’s the end of an era. The final film in The Hunger Games franchise is here and it’s impossible to be ready for it. Fans of the books first fell in love with Katniss Everdeen and her story back in 2008 when author Suzanne Collins published the book and even more did when the first film was released in 2012. The Hunger Games has been a perfect book adaptation in that each of the four films has told the story just the same as the books, if not better at times.

The scene where Katniss volunteers for his sister Primrose at the reaping was even more chilling and emotional than I could have ever imagined; the incredible sequence of Peeta nearly dying in the arena during the 75th Hunger Games, Finnick saving his life and Katniss shaking uncontrollably in the aftershock; and the amazing monologue when Katniss tells President Coin she can find another Mockingjay if Peeta isn’t saved. Ok, all the scenes in Catching Fire are especially stellar and memorable and easily my personal pick as my favorite film in the franchise, but each film contributes exactly what they should plus more for this story. A story about a brave young woman who was destined to make a difference in her world.

Mockingjay Part 2 picks up right where Part 1 left off. Hunger Games victors Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Johanna (Jena Malone) and Annie (Stef Dawson) were just rescued from the Capitol, where they were held captive by President Snow (Donald Sutherland). District 13’s President Coin (Julianne Moore) warranted the rescue and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) led the soldiers into battle. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is overjoyed in seeing Peeta, but the sight of him thinning and bruised is shocking. What’s even more shocking is when Peeta brutally attacks Katniss right when he sees her.

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When the film opens, we see Katniss getting her neck brace off, her throat tender and bruised. The Capitol tortured Peeta into thinking that Katniss was the real enemy. Katniss pleads with President Coin, ex-game maker Plutarch Heavensbee (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and her games mentor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), to let her in the Capitol in order to kill Snow herself but Coin believes it to be too dangerous. Desperate to seek revenge for Peeta and end the rebellion, Katniss devises a plan to join the soldiers and sneak into the Capitol. If that weren’t enough, she has Peeta and her sister Prim (Willow Shields) to worry about and protect, as she also tries to mend her friendship with Gale and figure out how to stop the rebellion once and for all.

There is no better actress for this role than Jennifer Lawrence. It’s mind-blowing how she was able to get set in this character and expand on her further than what Collins wrote in the books. Beginning as a teenager living in poverty in District 12, taking care of both her mother and younger sister to becoming a young woman and the face of the rebellion is some arc. We’ve seen Katniss as a fighter, a lover, a victor, a sister and a friend to those in need. Lawrence carries the weight of these films on her shoulders and magnificently succeeds.

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Gary Ross set the bar high with The Hunger Games and it is a perfect film, but when Francis Lawrence stepped in to direct the sequel and then to finish out the series, it became a whole new ball game. One of the greatest shots in the entire franchise is in Catching Fire where Katniss is raised up in the tube to enter the 75th Hunger Games and the shot expands from Cinemascope to full IMAX glory. The Mockingjay films are primarily set in underground and small spaces and F. Lawrence elevates the tension even more so here. In a particularly claustrophobic and intense scene where Katniss, Peeta, Gale and the other soldiers are crawling through the underground sewers, the Capitol sends water mutants after them. It’s better than the book. Both Mockingjay films are told better than the book and that is because of F. Lawrence and his dedicated cast. As each moment passes in Mockingjay Part 2 the film only gets better and better.

James Newton Howard’s impeccable and glorious score will go down as one of the most beautiful scores of the last decade. As Katniss and her fellow soldiers are going into battle, Newton’s score is blended with the song “The Hanging Tree,” sung by Katniss is Part 1. It’s like it’s own character in the films. Jo Willems re-teams with Lawrence as the cinematographer and captures the grimy and claustrophobic conditions of the underground while also basking in the magnificence of the Capitol settings.

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It’s without a doubt that when people look back in Jennifer Lawrence’s career, one of the first roles that will come to mind is Katniss Everdeen. Suzanne Collins created such an amazing heroine, but it’s Lawrence’s dedicated performance that makes her truly memorable. Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks will also be remembered for their work. The Hunger Games films have finally come full circle and there might not ever be another Young Adult book series that rings as true and even better in the movie world.

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