Movie Review: Hunger Games- Mockingjay- Part 1

Sequel to last year's explosive venture back into the deadly Hunger Games with Catching Fire, Mockingjay Part 1 leaves the Games in ashes, and sparks a massive revolution to end all revolutions. Bringing back the amazing cast from both of the previous films, from Jennifer Lawrence's fiery, arrow-shooting Katniss to the deadly President Snow played by the chilling Donald Sutherland, Mockingjay Part 1 without any doubt delivers powerful performances, but inevitably falls short of action and gripping storylines. Either way, this much-anticipated conclusion to the Hunger Games franchise continues to draw fans in for more of Katniss Everdeen's intense heroine adventures.  

Following her daring trick that resulted in the destruction of the Games, as well as the separation of her and her ally/lover, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), Katniss and the rest of the Victors end up in the hidden District 13, thought to have been destroyed and uninhabited for years. Run underground by President Coin (Julianne Moore), with rebellion leader Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) by her side, District 13 and its inhabitants enlist in the help of Katniss to be their "Mockingjay", the symbol of their revolution against the dictating Capitol. Prompted to create varying forms of propaganda, in order to enlist people to their cause and threaten the Capitol, Katniss plays along with Coin's elaborate game, yearning for her chance to rescue Peeta and the other captives from President Snow's grasp. Leading up to a heated and shocking ending, Mockingjay Part 1 manages to solidify the anticipation for the epic conclusion to this young-adult phenomenon. 

Even with the famous Hunger Games dead and gone, this complicated series of rebellion and hierarchy manages to deliver yet another blockbuster film that holds up to its hype. Led by the ever-beautiful and outstanding Jennifer Lawrence, this series has become one of the biggest book-to-screen franchises since Harry Potter. With such a powerful actress at the center of it all, this series probably couldn't survive without her, her fearlessness and determination being cleverly infused into her hopeful title character. Having destroyed the almighty arena of the Hunger Games in Catching Fire, Katniss faces an even more dangerous enemy outside the arena, one whom she's antagonized ever since she was originally thrown into the Games. In this final fight against the Capitol, Katniss' beliefs, strengths, and courage are ultimately tested to see if she can truly be the leader of the revolution. Even though she may be out of the violent and dangerous arena, where her loyalties were targeted by deadly opponents, Lawrence brings the heat once more as she continues down the road towards all-out war as the Girl on Fire.  

If we've learned anything from the last Hunger Games film last year, it's that adding a great amount of suspense to your film ultimately sways fans to gain anticipation for the next one. With Catching Fire ending on a cliffhanger, with Katniss finding out that her home had been destroyed by the Capitol, Mockingjay follows a similar route, leaving fans greatly awaiting Part 2, with the undoubted promise of all-out war in 2015. However, with this bout of suspense, us fans are left with something rather unsatisfactory. With the plot of this film mainly involving Katniss taking shots of herself proclaiming to the Capitol, and also President Coin and the rest of District 13 gearing up for the big revolution to come, nothing else major comes out of this film, other than a great year-long wait for what happens next. While Katniss may see some action while trying to save a hospital in a struggling district, nothing really happens that acts as a game-changer for the film. If one word could be used to describe Mockingjay Part 1, it would probably be "propaganda". Ultimately acting as the build-up to the final film, Part 1 adds a good layer of suspense, but fails to provide a true storyline for fans to enjoy, leaving them wondering how much of the story is left for the final film next year.  

Regardless of how dull this film's story may be, the cast is nonetheless amazing...well, to a degree, that is. Starring one of the most prominent females in film today, Jennifer Lawrence, the franchise continues to blaze with fury as the Girl on Fire still burns with passion and heroism for her family and her beliefs. As I said before, I don't believe that anyone could have led this series to fame other than Lawrence, her undeniable determination being displayed perfectly through her role as a rebellious teenager who has a knack for firing arrows, and also creating complicated love triangles. A lot more passionate than Kristen Stewart, another franchise love-triangle maker, Lawrence carries award-worthy potential in one hand, starring in films like American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook, and teenage street smarts in the other. 

As I mentioned before, the cast is amazing to a certain degree, that degree really only applying to Lawrence and a few others that succeeded in providing believable performances in the film. First on the list, is the lovely Julianne Moore, who plays the fearless president of District 13. Delivering a great performance as a hardened political leader who retains a good amount of heart and compassion, Moore joins the franchise without much of an introduction, but still succeeds in giving the audience a heartfelt performance, acting as a sort-of mother figure to Katniss and the rest of the struggling district. Another great performance came from the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, bringing intensity, as well as comedy, to his role as Plutarch Heavensbee. While we didn't see a whole lot of him in Catching Fire, his character plans to play a huge role in the conclusion of the franchise, acting as the puppet master of the rebellion. With the actor being such a prominent name in the film industry, delivering amazing performances in films like The Master and A Most Wanted Man, whatever role he may play in the conclusion, I know it'll be one to remember. 

Other than a few newcomers like Natalie Dormer's Cressida, Sam Claflin's Finnick Odair, and Jeffrey Wright as Beetee, the rest of the cast doesn't offer much in terms of performances. In the love triangle, Gale (played by Liam Hemsworth) continues to hide his feelings for Katniss, offering a rather dull role as a friend-zoned ally/hunting partner for Katniss. It's not until the last climactic (if you could even call it that) scene, that we truly see Liam bring some more intensity into his role. As for Peeta, we don't see a whole lot of him, but in the times we do, he's mostly a statue of a man, emotionless and hardened by the Capitol's clutches. Prisoner of the Capitol after Katniss' escape, Peeta (played by Josh Hutcherson) acts as a weapon at President Snow's disposal, conflicting Katniss' rebellion by prompting her to stop fighting and give in. Almost a shadow of his former self, Hutcherson's character goes from bad to worse, as he becomes the ultimate slave to the Capitol's dictation. As for the rest of Team Katniss, Haymitch and Effie Trinket (played by Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks) offer little to the story, having more prominent roles in the previous films, but still hold the same humorous attitudes that made us love them in the first film.  

Overall, this film acted well as propaganda for the next film, giving the audience a nice sneak peek at what's to come in winter 2015. Providing dynamic performances once again from Jennifer Lawrence, as well from some of the new cast members who aid in her fight, the Hunger Games saga continues to bring fresh and unique characters from the page to the screen. Even if it may not hold the same action and adventure as the previous films in the franchise, Mockingjay Part 1 does what any Part 1 of a two-parter film would do: get everyone super-excited for the next film that's only a whole year away. 

I gave this film a 7 out of 10 because, while it did get me excited for the next conclusive film, it failed to deliver any real plot, starting off with a somewhat bleak basis of enlisting rebels and then leaving us hanging with a hopeful yet confusing ending. Either way, it was great film to see in theaters this Thanksgiving, offering a decent thrill to enjoy before the final film in the Hunger Games saga. Maybe by next November I'll actually finish the book... 

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