Jennifer Lawrence stars as Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.”
The “Girl on Fire” is back and is equal parts badass and tarnished symbol of the Panem rebellion.
Unless you have read Suzanne Collins’ “ The Hunger Games” trilogy or have recently binge-watched the previous two films of the dystopian franchise, you may, no, will be lost once you see Katniss back on the screen.
Studio executives seem to be following the trend set by the final installments of “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” in splitting the final adaptations into two films. “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” is the first of the last. Per the usual with fans, this formula tends to receive mixed feelings and reactions. However, regardless of a presumed monetary motive, “Part 1” does a fair job of evenly splitting the roughly 390 pages of “Mockingjay.”
“Mockingjay” is meant to be different than “Catching Fire.” The arena of the Games is no longer in play. Rather, the focus is on our reluctant heroine Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and her role as the propaganda tool for the war between the districts and Capitol. We first see Katniss suffering from effects of PTSD from the Games and adjusting to her newfound placement deep underground in the now-existent District 13.
The film also devotes time to fleshing out and introducing more secondary characters as well as examining Katniss’ feelings for both her best friend Gale and fellow victor Peeta.
The franchise has always attracted A-list actors. President Coin (Julianne Moore) from District 13 acts as another authoritative force in Katniss’ life with an alternative agenda and questions Katniss’ capabilities as the symbol of the rebellion until Plutarch Heavensbee (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) proves her otherwise. Coin relies effects on the former Head Gamemaker and rebellion strategist on how to use Katniss as a rallying cry for the embattled districts.
While Katniss is still feeling tremendous guilt in having a role on the Capitol’s increased terrorism of its people, a sober Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) provides her the stability to move onward. A ragtag video crew follows suit, led by skilled director Cressida (Natalie Dormer of “Game of Thrones”) who documents the Mockingjay as a force of nature—a relatively simple task as Katniss finds herself enraged and hopeless against her nemesis President Snow (Donald Sutherland) with his taunts of holding Peeta captive.
Despite the constant visuals of a sunless, dreary underground environment and less action than its predecessors, the superb acting and sly comedic scenes are to smile and cheer for. Thanks to Elizabeth Banks in her returning role as Effie Trinket (which wasn’t originally in the “Mockingjay” novel) for providing the former stylist with a heart and humor in spite of her fish-out-of-water surroundings, “I’m condemned to this life of jumpsuits,” she quips.
And although the late Hoffman will still be seen in a final performance for “Mockingjay – Part 2,” his added gravitas and sleight-of-hand humor goes lengths in his supporting role. Sadly, when his character states “anyone can be replaced,” it’s a line packed with a punch, for this gifted actor cannot be and is an extra comfort in the bleak world of the franchise.
Although the pace seems to drag toward the end, I can’t see the ‘Mockingjay’ novel not being halved for adaptation as there is too much ground to cover and not enough time to do so in a single film.
In the end, a sort of cliffhanger only readers are aware of captures where “Mockingjay – Part 2” will pick up, but will still leave them hungry (sorry, I had to) until next November. Until then, may the odds be ever in your favor.