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“You will rescue Peeta at the earliest opportunity, or you will find yourself another Mockingjay.”
With these words, heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) seals an uneasy alliance with President Coin (Julianne Moore), leader of the rebellion against the Capital. Along with Plutarch (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), Coin was behind Katniss’ shattering of the 75th Hunger Games in the last movie.
While she managed to evacuate Katniss to a hidden bunker in District 13, love interest Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) was left behind. Now, with President Snow (Donald Sutherland) using Peeta as the voice for Capital propaganda, Coin wants Katniss as a counter voice. She hopes that the Mockingjay will inspire citizens across Panem to join their rebellion.
Katniss as the Mockingjay has become a kind of Joan of Arc figure. Dressed in black, she’s seen as a warrior princess leading the charge against evil President Snow. But that’s not how Katniss sees herself—not at the beginning anyway. Instead, she first appears in weakness, suffering from post-traumatic stress and hiding in an air vent in District 13. Only when she realizes she can leverage her role as Mockingjay to rescue Peeta does she agree to Coin’s requests.
The fact that this movie covers half of Suzanne Collins’ book Mockingjay, the final book in the runaway best-selling Hunger Games trilogy, explains why the plot doesn’t get very far. And as Katniss’ role expands to lead an actual war across a vast country, the action often feels unfocused—and very dark.
Although the film is rated PG-13 and doesn’t include any sexual content or foul language, Katniss sees many instances of violence and destruction. She witnesses charred bodies fire-bombed by the Capital and one friend even wishes aloud that they were dead. The movie isn’t as gruesome as many adult war movies, but it is disturbing—and very intense.
The love triangle Katniss plays back and forth between Peeta and Gale may send a muddled message to teens. As Katniss snuggles with Peeta in bed, “It’s clean but confusing,” said Christian mom Dana Cowherd.
For those who can handle these problems, Mockingjay also provides powerful doses of humor (cat lovers unite!), top-notch acting, and thought-provoking themes.
One of the richest themes is Katniss’ struggle to become the Mockingjay. With all she has been through at the hands of Snow and the Capital, you’d think she’d be happy to join the rebellion. But Katniss sees through the propaganda on both sides. She knows that in reality, she’s no Joan of Arc.
By the film’s end, Katniss seems to have embraced the Mockingjay symbol. But she has suffered a searing loss, leaving viewers with one burning question: How will her story end?
I should probably say the books don’t give me much hope for next year’s final installment. But Jennifer Lawrence tells us we’ll see “how important one voice can be.” Only time will tell whether that’s just empty propaganda coming from the Capital.