The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Review

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By: Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)



When we think of Jennifer Lawrence, what comes to mind? OK, yes, falling at award shows, speaking her mind whenever and wherever she wants (as she should!), and wardrobe malfunctions at almost any event are typical (and probably planned at this point) things for J. Law, but we also think of The Hunger Games. And it is that time of year for another film in the franchise. Here, however, they’ve split the final book into two parts because, why not make money with two movies based on one book instead of one? Twilight did it, Harry Potter did it, The Hobbit has split one book into three films, and now we have The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.

When last we left Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), she had just shot an arrow in the arena, causing a short circuit of the force field which allowed a group of rebels to rescue her and a few of the other participants. And while Katniss was saved, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) was taken by President Snow to the Capitol. Since then, there have been uprisings in many of the districts and news that a hidden army has been amassing in the former District 13. Once Katniss sees the destruction of District 12, she decides to join the rebel cause and be their Mockingjay, their symbol to fight against President Snow. District 13 is run by President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) with an assist from Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman). But Snow has Peeta to use as a propaganda tool in his fight. Thus the rebellion needs to rescue Peeta and put an end to Snow. But will they have the manpower and technology to do so?

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Mockingjay is a vastly different film from its predecessors. The previous two films focused on tributes thrown into a battle arena where there could only be one winner, but that has now been thrown out. The arenas where tributes fought are no more. Now it is an all-out war between the districts and the Capitol run by President Snow. It is a reflection on life in many countries when a populace has been held down by its government for so long, and the proverbial ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ lands, and the people rise up and fight for themselves. Here, however, feels like much more of a set up for things to come. And because of that, the movie tends to feel stale throughout, lacking much in terms of drive and momentum. Those that read the book can attest that the action really takes place in the second half, and part two of the film will be the same way. But, in true Hollywood fashion today, why make one movie when you can space it out to two movies and make twice the money? And while the studio will undoubtedly succeed in their goal for financial gain, the audience suffers through a lackluster film.

As we all know, Lawrence reprises her role and slips right back in to being Katniss. She’s been damaged by the games and by the loss of Peeta, and is reluctant to be a symbol for revolution. It feels like half of the film is Lawrence’s reaction to the devastation around her in some form or another. And this film really focuses on Lawrence, whereas the other films were able to split it up. Peeta is more of an afterthought, seen only through propaganda pieces on TV, and Woody Harrelson’s character, Haymitch, is vastly underutilized with minimal screen time. With a story so devoid of principle characters, a lack of an engaging story, and not a whole lot for Lawrence to do, even the actors seemed to be going through the motions as the story builds up to the next, and final, film in the series.

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 will undoubtedly make the studio money, but probably not nearly as much as the previous two films. With some books, the story can be stretched out along two films (or three with The Hobbit), but Mockingjay isn’t one of those stories. In order for it to be successful, we need to see continued character growth, a story that continues to evolve, and for the audience to be entertained. And while all of these things are touched on, it is very slow going and that’s a shame considering how wonderful the previous films were. Should you run out and watch it in theaters right away? Probably not. Will you, like I did? Most likely. And, one final thought. This was Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s final film, and I wanted to pay my respect to this late, great actor. May he rest in peace.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

 


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