151122mockingjayposterIt seems all of America is talking right now about the recent attacks on Paris, the fierce debate over refugees and ceaseless wars against terror in the Middle East.

Even when we escape to the movie theaters – like millions of Americans did this weekend to see “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” – it’s hard not to be reminded. This final installment of “The Hunger Games” film franchise, however, makes it all too easy to be reminded of such things.

“Mockingjay 2” brings back heroine Katniss Everdeen on a final quest to bring freedom to the oppressed people of Panem by assassinating the evil President Snow. But at this point in the story, the peoples of Panem have risen up against Snow, and the nation has been decimated by the ongoing civil war. It makes for a dreary landscape, and the horrors and griefs and moral obscurities of mass violence and killing form the backbone theme of the film.

The movie illustrates that fighting for a cause, even for freedom, may well be worth the cost – but the cost, in death and suffering, is a painful, painful one to pay.

“I above all know,” Katniss says at one point, “that killing is always personal.”

This is a serious, dark film, so when the action scenes break out and our heroes have to fight their way through one more arena, the thrills and excitement seem almost out of place. But at the same time, it’s all the more fitting that much of the action takes place in the sewers of the Capitol, and the escalation of horror elements in this installment fit right in.

This isn’t just a movie for action buffs or teen movie fans. It’s a movie for thinkers, too, a conversation starter.

And while we’re thinking … it’s hard to miss the parallel between “Mockingjay 2” and the raging debates over the nature of Islam and the Syrian refugee crisis.

In one of his speeches, for example, the evil President Snow says of Katniss and friends, “They’ve never known our comfort and sophistication, and they hate us for it. … They mean to bury us.” He actually makes some points that could be applied to Islamic extremists in the Middle East and their hatred for the West.

Coming out of Snow’s mouth, however, it feels like a snide caricature, a mocking criticism of many of the legitimate points conservative commentators (or politicians) make about radical Islam.

But lest we surmise this film is just another Hollyweird leftist commentary on real life through the fantasy of film, another moment follows quickly on Snow’s speech that seems to come from the opposite side of the aisle.

Katniss and her fellow freedom fighters, those Snow would refer to as “terrorists,” are trying to find a way to sneak into the otherwise impenetrable Capital. And what proves to be the best way in? To disguise themselves among the throng of refugees rushing to the gates. It illustrates exactly what many conservatives are warning about when it comes to Obama’s plan to import tens of thousands of Muslim refugees from Syria.

Regardless of what you think of Islam or what you think of the refugee crisis, there’s plenty to think about “Mockingjay Part 2.” Its message of the horrors and pain of war should serve as pause to any of us as we think about the world’s problems, and its mournful tone really drives the point home.

And yet, the movie finds a hopeful note. Not to give away any spoilers, but “The Hunger Games” ends with a small ray of sunshine, a message that there are “better games to play.”

In the end, the final film does bring the stark drama of the franchise to a satisfying conclusion and provides a narrative framework for discussing real-world issues, especially with the teens who have gobbled up both “The Hunger Games” books and the movies.

Content advisory:

  • “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2,” rated PG-13, contains neither obscenity nor profanity.
  • The movie has very little sexuality – a brief shot of a bare midriff, a slightly form-fitting outfit, and a few kisses. At the end of the film, SPOILER ALERT, Katniss crawls into bed with Peeta for comfort, but there’s no sexuality depicted or even necessarily implied.
  • The movie does, however, contain several scenes of horror and violence, including gunfire, explosions, combat, killing, mutilated bodies (though not much gore) and general warfare. It is sometimes frightening and often traumatic for character and audience alike.
  • Outside of the parallels mentioned above, the film has no overt religious or occult content. There is, however, a wedding scene in which the bride or groom pledges “one life, one purpose, one destiny” … with no mention of God.

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