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THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2: 4 STARS. “this is JLaw’s movie.”

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 10.27.23 AM“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2,” the final part in Jennifer Lawrence’s quintet of blockbusters based on Suzanne Collins’s novels, begins seconds after the last movie ended. There’s no “previously on The Hunger Games.” It’s as if no time has passed since the last movie. It may leave newbies to the series a bit baffled but fans should appreciate getting right down to business.

The broad strokes of the story are easy to get even if you haven’t seen the other movies. Know that Katniss Everdeen is the Mockingjay, a symbol of hope in a country torn apart by Civil War. She’s also a butt-kicking warrior with a conscience. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), her ex boyfriend-turned-propaganda-tool for the government, now suffers from PTSD but has re-joined the efforts to bring down the evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

Publicly Snow calls Everdeen, “A poor unstable girl with nothing more than a talent with a bow and arrow,” but really he understands her value as a symbol to the revolution against him. For her part she is done with making speeches and propaganda videos and sees her job as eliminating Snow. “He needs to look into my eyes when I do it,” she says.

She sets off to the Capitol to hunt down Snow and faces her greatest challenges yet.

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” is a cut above other young adult action movies. It skilfully blends politically charged action with elements of horror—how about those pasty white subterranean creatures?—romance and, it must be said a dollop of mush. It’s dark and dangerous, unafraid to explore the gritty side of the story.

It’s strongest asset, however, is its star, Jennifer Lawrence. She brings the complex character alive, displaying equal parts heroism, vulnerability and determination. She is the glue that binds all the elements together and is, far and away, the most interesting YA heroine in recent years.

Julianne Moore, Sutherland, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman (who died before shooting was complete) round out the cast to create an interesting ensemble, but this is Lawrence’s movie.

“The Hunger Games” franchise has taken what is essentially a fancied up Civil War story and created a complete world, ripe with detail and intrigue. “Part 2” adds in a city that is basically a giant booby trap and some crazy creatures but stays true to the core of Everdeen’s story of survival.

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2,” will satisfy fans and please newcomers to the franchise. The long coda that wraps up the franchise is probably only for hardcore fans hungry for details about Katniss and Peeta, but felt like padding to me. On the upside, there might be a great drinking game in here. Do a shot every time Katniss is knocked out and fights to regain consciousness and my guess is you’ll be just a shell-shocked as she is by the end of the movie.

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