Reviewers suggest Mockingjay: Part 2 is morally ambiguous

by Kelly Ledbetter |

(The Hunger Games Movie website / SCREEN SHOT)

CHICAGO (Christian Examiner) –As Katniss Everdeen, a reluctant figurehead for a martial rebellion, seeks revenge against President Snow in "Mockingjay: Part 2," the final of four installments of the Hunger Games series, the films' dystopian setting of the Capitol continues to reflect the real world but doesn't necessarily differentiate between right and wrong, reviewers say.

"One provocative scene particularly resonates this week in the aftermath of recent terrorist attacks in Paris and the subsequent, polarizing conversation surrounding refugees," said Josh Larsen at Think Christian.

In the scene Larsen references, Katniss disguises herself as a citizen fleeing violence in order to get close enough to President Snow to attempt to kill him. Larsen argues the film's strength is in its ambiguity and ability to call society's assumptions into question.

"With the Paris attacks, the terror group has expanded its geographical reach and in the process inflamed fear — even as far as the United States — that more fanatics might be hiding among innocent, terrorized Syrian refugees," said Larsen. "Mockingjay – Part 2, though a work of fantasy, evokes these real-world horrors in the aforementioned scene, as Katniss embeds herself among the movie's refugees."

Yet the film does not take a clear stance on whether Katniss's actions are right and wrong, per se. Rather, it fosters ambiguity in order to allow multiple, nuanced interpretations of its imagery, especially its victims, Larsen says. 

"This blurring of the lines between victim and oppressor, survivor and aggressor, is one of the series' better qualities," Larsen points out. "Throughout the films, war has been depicted as an equal-opportunity offender, capable of flattening homes and inducing trauma no matter what side you're on."

Larsen argues Katniss can be said to be both a victim and an agressor. Nell Minow, a movie reviewer at BeliefNet, summarizes it well: "All Katniss is certain of is that President Snow must die and she wants to be the one who kills him."

"Snow has to pay for what he has done," Katniss says, and all her actions say it too.

The heroine's main goal, which drives most of the movie's plot, is her desire to assassinate President Snow, and she is apparently willing to disguise herself as an ordinary citizen fleeing a civil war in order to achieve her object, which Larsen calls reminiscient of current events in Europe.

"The message of Mockingjay, and all the Hunger Games films, is really about whether one person's moral choices have the ability to change the world," said Keith Hill, a Reel Gospel writer, of Part 1.

"While it's a noble sentiment, such radical and permanent change is beyond our ability to achieve. We need more than just an inspirational leader, who will unite us and bring to light abilities that are hidden within us. That kind of thinking assumes that the problem with the world is 'out there' and not in us," Hill said.

The unwilling heroine, whom critics of both books and movies have criticized as reactive, has a decisive goal in "Mockingjay: Part Two." But as audiences who have already read the Hunger Games books will know, she does not end the series explictly happy.

"Unlike most big-time franchises, The Hunger Games has always been open to ambiguity," Larsen writes. "But are we?"

In other words, Larsen implies that Christians' moral decisions should be guided by Biblical principles rather than personal vindication, as in the case of Katniss.