And, at last, Katniss Aberdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) closes the final chapter of Suzanne Collins’ dystopian series about teenagers forced to battle it out, The Running Man-style. After a decade of holding the nation’s attention, from the first novel in 2008 to this fourth and final film in 2016 on Blu-ray/DVD, Katniss has had a nice “run.” But as we follow her to a final confrontation with President Snow (Donald Sutherland), we must approach her struggle with absolute dread – like George R.R. Martin, Collins’ work hasn’t been particularly sentimental. Can Katniss make it through unscathed?
Still reeling from the effects of traitorous violence and rebel implosion seen in Mockingjay Part I, Katniss recuperates, recovering in time to be used by President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) as a figurehead, an instrument of rebellion. Coin wants Katniss to play it “safe,” hiding behind the real battle and serving only as a mascot for her motivation to unseat Snow. Here, Katniss has moved from meaningful, self-made individual to pawn of the government, and her resentment grows.
Of course, it becomes apparent that Katniss will fight the system – even when the system is her own. She’s on a revenge tour of the Capitol, and she’s aimed at her own destruction as much as Snow’s. Unfortunately, she’s at odds with one of her ‘boys,’ shaking up the Twilight-like threesome. But true love and friendship have prevailed before, and the audience will hold out hope for peace to reign.
Fans of the film undoubtedly know how this all ends, but on the Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo pack, they will eat up the eight-part documentary that shows how director Francis Lawrence’s final, third film makes the dark and powerful conclusion of the series. Much of the other special feature space is eaten up by visuals: pictures from the series, sketches of the armor Katniss wears, and city setup that makes Panem (and serves as the locale for much of the film). Those serious about the series and its overview will watch the film again, this time with commentary from Lawrence and show runner Nina Jacobson who left Disney to form her own Color Force production company, which covered the whole Hunger Games series.
For those who have observed the series from afar and never bought in: this is not your ‘typical’ teen thriller. The final installment is significantly darker (think Deathly Hallows ramped up) but no less pushy about its insight into the world around us. Even as I watch it, news reports about a bombing in Brussels floated in. What are the ethics of war, of guerrilla warfare, of fighting for one’s rights? What does the Hunger Games tell us about what it means to send our young out to ‘eat’ each other? Where is the justice in determining who are the combatants, the innocents, the collateral damage? In Mockingjay Part II, we see the dangers of war – everyone loses. The best anyone can hope for is that they might retain some glimmer of their soul when the last attack fades away…