Strong performances and excellent production fail to save this half-baked, disappointing end to the Hunger Games trilogy.
The third and final installment in the blockbusting Hunger Games franchise has come and gone with a whimper. Audiences expecting a coherent end to the vaunted story arc were greeted instead by subplots left unresolved, loose ends left untied, and, in the end, a merciless dictator left unscathed by a doomed rebel plot.
We meet Mockingjay's heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) right where we left her in Catching Fire—at the end of that movie. Having escaped from the Hunger Games arena, she now resides underground in the once-thought destroyed District 13, where she begins her evolution into the symbol of the rebellion. Readers of the books will notice at least one major change right off the bat: Katniss’s lack of superpowers as the titular Mockingjay. Gone are the powers of flight, venomous spit, and audial mimicry that made her final sky battle with President Snow so harrowing.
Meanwhile, her beloved Peeta remains in the Capitol under the watchful eye of President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Revealed at last as a traitor to the rebel cause (called it!), Peeta now performs propaganda-style interviews with Caesar Flickerman reminiscent of Sean Hannity’s after-school softball games with George W. Bush. The anguish of his betrayal takes a lasting toll, as the series ends with Peeta languishing over the harm he’s caused, having paid the ultimate price for his treachery: $1,000.
Of the three installments, Mockingjay is easily the least exciting. Part of the blame rests on the decision to remove any trace of a Hunger Game from the plot. What made Hunger Games 1: The Hunger Games and Hunger Games 2: Catching Fire so great was the thrill of watching the brave tributes battle each other in the arena as a beautiful reminder to the districts of the brutality of war and the importance the Capitol holds as the beating heart of the nation. Take that away and what do you got? Nothing. That’s what.
Mockingjay is also the most overtly political film of the trilogy, but unlike the first two installments, it takes a hard-right turn towards fatalistic submission to the state. The rebellion ends in a stalemate, with countless rebels dead and President Snow still alive. But without so much as an after-credits scene wrapping everything up, the reader is left asking, “What was the point?” What started out as a promising message to young adults to resist tyranny wherever one finds it ends instead with a defeatist statement that resistance is futile.
It's a cautionary yet heavy-handed tale for young adults: sometimes the bad guys win.