“The Hunger Games” series of books and movies have long been a subject of debate among parents who worry its core subject is too dark and violent for young audiences. With the final movie in the franchise releasing this week, I expect that debate will only intensify.

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2” brings the plot of the previous three films to a grim, sophisticated and powerful conclusion. Fans of the young adult novels on which the movies are based will anticipate what’s coming — again, this one stays relentlessly true to its source material as Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) struggles to maintain her moral compass in the midst of a brutal war.

Picking up where “Mockingjay Part 1” left off, Katniss is still recovering from an attack by the brainwashed Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), who now believes Katniss is the cause of everything bad in the world. She’s barely given time to recover her voice when Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) sends her back into the field as a propaganda tool to unite the districts of Panem, which have been ravaged by revolution in the wake of the previous Hunger Games. Coin wants Katniss to encourage the districts to stand together to overthrow President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Katniss, meanwhile, is worried about her fellow soldiers’ callous disregard for civilian casualties. She ultimately decides the best course of action is to go alone to assassinate President Snow because she sees that as the only resolution to the war. Unfortunately, the Capitol has been turned into its own arena, littered with deadly traps, prompting Finnick (Sam Claflin) to declare, “Welcome to the 76th Hunger Games.”

What parents need to know

I won’t sugarcoat things.

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2” is a bleak, emotional and violent ending to this blockbuster franchise. There are horrifying deaths, scenes of war and plenty of political maneuvering onscreen to justify parents’ concerns about allowing their children to see it. The movie is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for some thematic material.

However, I noticed something interesting when Upstate Parent ran a contest to give away passes to see an advance screening of this movie Tuesday, Nov. 17 at Regal Hollywood Stadium 20 in Greenville. Many, many entries came from middle school-aged young people who loved the books and had seen the previous films.

Parents who worry young audiences will walk away from seeing  “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2” with violent tendencies or traumatized for life should consider some of the things young entrants wrote about this series.

“I really want to see ‘Mockingjay Part 2’ in an advanced screening because these books and movies have meant a lot to me,” wrote one entrant. “They have taught me important lessons about life — to not step down, but to stand up in even the most impossible terrifying situations. They have taught me that anyone can be brave. Even the girl from the poorest district in Panem could overthrow the Capitol with a handful of berries! Anyone can change the world.”

Wrote another, “I’ve read the books and seen all the movies, and I’ve learned that one person can make a difference, even though it’s not easy, and that actions have consequences, especially when it comes to war."

Many of the entries echoed similar sentiments.

“I don’t have many friends, and this will sound crazy, but I consider Katniss to be one of my best friends,” wrote another entrant. “Because of her, I believe I can get through anything, no matter how bad it is, because that’s the real meaning of courage: to never give up.”

While I do recommend that parents use caution when letting their children age 13 and younger watch “Mockingjay Part 2,” I’d also encourage them to consider their kids when making that decision. This is the movie in the franchise that gives the entire series its meaning. Mainly, there are consequences to war and violence. It’s rare that a blockbuster film will have such a complex message while managing to be entertaining, but “Mockingjay Part 2” succeeds in both tasks.

Besides, it delivers a powerful message to young audiences in the process — that one girl can change the world for the better by standing up for what’s right. What parent doesn’t want his or her child to believe that?

  • "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2" opens in theaters nationwide Nov. 20.
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