Review - The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (2014), PG-13, 123 minutes - Those familiar with the books know that The Hunger Games was originally a trilogy, the third installment of which was Mockingjay.  Shortly after the monumental success of the first film in 2012, it was announced that not only would they be completing The Hunger Games story on the big screen, but that the final chapter would be split into two films (which seems to have become a popular trend in recent years).  At the time of the announcement, I was a little disappointed.  Being a fan of the books, I didn't feel as though splitting Mockingjay was necessary.  It just seemed like a greedy Hollywood move.  Having seen Mockingjay - Part 1, I have to admit that I now understand why they made the split.

Mockingjay - Part 1 takes place shortly after the end of last year's Catching Fire.  Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) awakens in the care of the District 13 facility which was previously believed to have been destroyed.  She is recruited by Plutarch Heavensbee (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) and acting President of District 13 Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) to be their 'mockingjay', the face of their rebellion against the capitol of Panem in District 1.  There is no love lost for the capital as far as Katniss is concerned, but she fears violent reprisal from President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and the capitol and she does not want to endanger her family and friends, or her people.  Just as she was in the first two installments of the franchise, Katniss finds herself torn between the person she is and the person the rest of the population has come to expect her to be.

A number of characters return (Josh Hutcherson's Peeta, Liam Hemsworth's Gale, Woody Harrelson's Haymitch, Sam Claflin's Finnick, Willow Shields' Prim, Elizabeth Banks' Effie, Jeffrey Wright's Beetee, Stanley Tucci's Caesar Flickerman, Jenna Malone's Johanna), and a few new ones are introduced (Mahershala Ali's Boggs, Natalie Dormer's Cressida, Evan Ross' Messalla, Elden Henson's Pollux, Wes Chatham's Castor, Robert Knepper's Antonius), all in relatively small roles though as this is really a film about Katniss and her maturation from unwitting symbol to a true leader of the people.  Lawrence's ability to express and convey Katniss' emotions and growth continues to be the strongest part of these films.

Mockingjay - Part 1 is not nearly as action packed as either of its predecessors, but what it lacks in action, it makes up for in tension and emotion.  This film really cranks up the intensity level as we are shown the struggle for power and momentum between the capitol and the rebellion.  There is one scene in particular during a rebellion propaganda transmission delivered by Finnick that is particularly suspenseful.

Since this is the third installment in The Hunger Games franchise, I can't quite recommend it to anyone.  That is only because someone would be completely lost if they haven't seen the first two films.  Due to the popularity of both the books and the films though, I feel like that may not be such an obstacle.  If you are a fan of the series, this is another excellent entry to the franchise and sets the table for what will undoubtedly be an explosive conclusion to the franchise when Part 2 arrives a year from now.  If you have no prior knowledge of The Hunger Games and are even the least bit intrigued, take the time to watch the first two films before this one.  You'll be glad you did.

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