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Don’t mock it til you try it: a ‘Mockingjay Pt. 2’ review

Let’s be honest though, there should have only been one movie.

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For all of you hardcore Hunger Games fans out there, I need to be honest and let you know that I have not read any of the books. I am reviewing this film on its cinematic merit alone. Needless to say, beware of massive spoilers from the first three previous films.

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2” picks up right where part one left off. Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) has just attacked Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) after being brainwashed by the Capitol, and the revolution is in full swing. Most of the film is an all-out war between the Capitol and the Rebels, led politically by an unwilling Katniss, who would rather be fighting than posing for pictures and reading rehearsed speeches to the masses.

Have you ever heard a movie called a “feel-good” movie? Where the movie just warms your heart and you leave feeling inspired and with a smile on your face? Yeah, this is the exact opposite of that. This is a feel-bad movie, but in a good way.

“Mockingjay, Part 2” is relentlessly dark. If you’re a fan of the series, this is nothing new to you (as the series is based on a competition where kids are forced to kill each other for sport), but this film takes it to a whole other level. There are many gut-wrenching moments, and if you’re the type to cry at movies, bring many a tissue.

Despite the somber tone, the film is actually great. It’s a satisfying conclusion to a series with definite cinematic ups and downs.

The first “Hunger Games” film was underwhelming to me. I thought it was OK, but too dark for its own good. But the second film, “Catching Fire,” was phenomenal. It brought up themes about the dangers of big government that were fascinating, and the story took an interesting turn.

Unfortunately, after “Catching Fire,” the filmmakers stumbled. With the final products that we have, there is no way that they could justify splitting “Mockingjay” into two parts from a filmmaking standpoint. Hardly anything happened to advance the plot in part one. The events could’ve been summed up in the first five minutes of a theoretical united “Mockingjay.”

Had they taken the time and sacrificed the unbelievable amount of money that they’re going to gain from having made two parts, they could have shaved down the rough edges of part one (most of the film) and part two (profoundly little of the film) and made a single, fantastic “Mockingjay.” It could’ve been better than “Catching Fire.”

Fortunately, part two of “Mockingjay” is better in every way than part one. The writing, the story, the acting, the action and the emotional resonance are all an enormous improvement.

Since it is based on a novel, the writing and the story are both great. This classic revolution story takes many twists and turns, some more expected than others. The pace is fast enough to keep you engaged, and the love story is better than it has any right to be.

Even though Josh Hutcherson’s acting needed some work early on in the series, he’s a pleasant surprise in “Mockingjay, Part 2.” Jennifer Lawrence is great as always, and Donald Sutherland shines as President Snow. Jena Malone, who plays Johanna Mason, though underutilized, pleases in her eccentric role, while Natalie Dormer, who plays Cressida, is all but wasted this time around.

Although much less frequent than in the first two films, the action is great. Given that Katniss only fired one arrow in part one of “Mockingjay,” more action was more than welcome. Keep an eye out for the sewer scenes; they’re the best the film has to offer.

“Mockingjay, Part 2” focuses a little less on the anti-big government narrative to shine more light on the idea that war is personal. It never lets you feel like the people dying are simply cannon fodder, but rather people that you’ve seen in the series so far and are probably fond of. It’s heavy stuff.

If you haven’t seen any of the films, I recommend watching the first two, reading the plot summary of the third and picking up a ticket to see this one in theaters. Even though “Mockingjay” would have been better as one cohesive film, part two is definitely still worth seeing.

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