CHICAGO (Christian Examiner) – At first blush, it seems rather absurd that anything good can come out of a series of movies — the "Hunger Games" — that has as its primary plot the killing of children by other children on live television for entertainment.
The thought is so repugnant and so revolting that we are tempted even to launch a boycott of the films ... until we realize that the films are actually an indictment on us and on our own violence-filled entertainment culture.
The last installment in the "Hunger Games" films, "Mockingjay: Part 2," opens this weekend, bringing to a conclusion a story that has produced three straight blockbusters that rank among the Top 80 grossing movies of all time.
It also concludes a gripping morality tale that – despite being set in a God-less post-apocalyptic society – raises more ethical questions about right and wrong than are seen in most Christian films. And for most of the movies, the heroine, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), makes what we would call the biblically correct choice.
"Mockingjay: Part 2" opens with Katniss siding with the rebel army as it seeks to overthrow President Coriolanus Snow and the powerful totalitarian government that had held the so-called Hunger Games, which pitted teens ages 12-18 against one another in a duel to the death – televised on TV.
Katniss had survived two such games – defiantly refusing to kill the final contestant in the inaugural film -- and became a hero to those who oppose the violence and the Snow regime.
"Snow has to pay for what he has done," she says early in the film.
Katniss, though, is a reluctant warrior. She wants to see the government overthrown but doesn't want there to be any civilian casualties. Analyzing a bombing strategy she fears will lead to massive deaths, she says to no one in particular, "There's got to be a better way."
When told that some innocent people will "have to die" for the rebels to win, she responds: This is no different than the Hunger Games."
Yet later in the film she confides to a colleague: "I'm going to kill Snow. ... He needs to see my eyes when I kill him."
In modern-day political war lingo, she's not a hawk, but she's not a dove, either. Perhaps she strikes the ethical balance that Just War proponents support. It's certainly worth considering.
Of course, it's easy to oppose Snow. Any leader who says "I'm not above killing children" – which he does – deserves to be taken out.
But just when it seems the obvious is about to take place and Snow is going to be assassinated, "Mockingjay 2" tosses us a plot twist that keeps us guessing until the end.
"Mockingjay 2" does include quite a bit of violence, although it is mostly blood-less. It's also worth noting that there are no "Hunger Games" – fights to the death between teens -- in this one. Mockingjay 2 contains no sexuality and also no coarse language.
Entertainment value: 4 out of 5 stars. Family friendly rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Post-movie discussion topics: Is it ever ethical to assassinate a head of state? What are the limits to a just war? What does Hunger Games teach us about violence in entertainment?
Michael Foust has covered the film industry for more than a decade. Visit his website, MichaelFoust.com