The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is not what you would come to expect from The Hunger Games franchise. In fact, this final chapter, which will be split up into two films, has separated itself from its predecessors. Unlike other franchises, Mockingjay Part 1 does not follow the same formula it established for itself. It is wholly unique from the first two installments, and is a breath of fresh air because it wisely takes the annual Hunger Games out of The Hunger Games film.

Jennifer Lawrence and Julianne Moore in The Hunger Games Mockingjay - Part 1

Jennifer Lawrence and Julianne Moore in The Hunger Games Mockingjay – Part 1

Mockingjay Part 1 follows the aftermath of the 74th annual Hunger Games and the costs of the rebellion movement. The heroic Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself in District 13 after she helped shattered the force field. Now, under the guidance of Plutarch Heavensbee (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and the stoic President of District 13, Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), Katniss is in the position of finally becoming the symbol so many has hoped she would become. Can Katniss come to terms with this and help advance the rebellion movement, or will her fears and concerns of others, especially Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), get in the way?

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 has finally presented a fully realized Panem, its people, and its corrupted media and government. The big themes that have always been represented is finally well-developed and the themes of revolution and resistance have now been expanded because the film shifts its dystopian world into a state of war. It is easy to classify this installment of The Hunger Games trilogy as a war film; however, it is not what you might expect. Sure, there are plenty of scenes that depict action. There is a fantastic scene involving Katniss shooting down fighter jets with an exploding arrow, and there is also a highly intense and well-executed rescue mission. However, director Francis Lawrence and screenwriters, Danny Strong and Peter Craig, focus the film on a more personal and political level. Collectively, they also further advance their social commentary on propaganda and how the media can manipulate its society. This allows the film to become well established in its themes and characters, which is ultimately why this film is highly entertaining and successful.

Like the first two films, we are still seeing the events through Katniss’ eyes, but this time we finally see the actual sacrifice she is making. Katniss as a teenager and a revolutionary symbol gets even more development. It becomes extremely exciting and revealing when the film dives head first into the struggle Katniss faces. She is definitely heroic and brave, but the important question to ask is does she truly desire to be this symbol? The conflict of her accepting this role and possibly coming to terms with being a mere pawn makes this film completely satisfying.

In addition to great character-driven moments, the performances are equally great. What is there left to say about Jennifer Lawrence? She wears her heart on her sleeves and still portrays Katniss in a meaningful and heartfelt way. Instead of sleepwalking in this performance, she portrays Katniss in an urgent, relevant manner that makes it feel like we are watching this character for the first time again. She anchors the film and makes the film essential to watch. Arguably the best part of the film comes from the supporting characters. What Mockingjay Part 1 does extremely well is it gives its supporting characters more of a chance to shine. Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) can be seen more than just a plot device. We get different versions of the always entertaining Haymitch and Effie, and there are still performed terrifically by Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks respectively. Donald Sutherland is still menacing and conniving as President Snow, and the late great Phillip Seymour Hoffman is perfect as always. Juliane Moore is an excellent addition to the cast and makes for a great antagonist for Katniss. Yet, the surprise of the film comes from the performance of Josh Hutcherson. This is his best performance as Peeta and is probably the best performance of the film. He is compelling and it is so nice to see Peeta as more than just a love interest.

Unfortunately this is not a seamless transition and it experiences some bumps along the way. While we all can understand why this film is being split up into two parts, this truly hurts the film in the long run. Mockingjay Part 1 lacks true excitement and is a little anti-climatic because the film is more or less a placeholder for the grand finale. With a hurried beginning and  no true ending, Mockingjay Part 1 reminds its audience that it is merely just the middle. Another aspect the hurts the film is when the love triangle of Katniss, Peeta, and Gale comes to the forefront. It simply does not fit with the dark and bleak tone the majority of the film sets. This love triangle undermines all of the characters especially Katniss. The Hunger Games series should be above that by now. With that being said, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 still offers a darker, compelling look at its universe. It tackles big themes, has immersive set pieces, and is necessary for all fans of this franchise. There is no denying that Mockingjay continues The Hunger Games dominance in the YA genre.

The cast includes: Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle), Josh Hutcherson (Red Dawn), Liam Hemsworth (The Expendables 2), Woody Harrelson (Out of the Furnace), and Juliane Moore (Non-Stop). It was written by Danny Strong and Peter Craig and directed by Francis Lawrence.

3 out of 4 stars

-By Louie Coruzzolo


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