The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Director: Francis Lawrence

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore

Rated: PG-13 (intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material)

Katniss Everdeen is in District 13 after she shatters the games forever. Under the leadership of President Coin and the advice of her trusted friends, Katniss spreads her wings as she fights to save Peeta and a nation moved by her courage.

 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

By Matt Greene

Since taking on Hunger Games, Lawrence has arguably become Hollywood’s most successful and revered performer, blowing up box-offices and frequenting award stages. As MjP1’s Katniss, a character burdened with being the hope AND the cause of Panem’s war, she carries the responsibility placed on her with complexity, strength, fear and heartbreak. Add in the film’s exploration of faith and fear, and its criticizing political spins of all kinds, and it becomes clear: the Hunger Games franchise is a cinematic force to be reckoned with. To shove this aside with the other YA films is grossly inaccurate; MjP1 proves that this is among the premiere SciFi franchises of this era.

We catch up with Katniss in underground District 13, reluctantly leading the rebellion against President Snow and the Capitol. The story is skillfully told, with the power of fear palpable in the oppressed 99%, and the fear of power creeping up in the 1%. It’s a solemn affair, to be sure, but not without its moments of levity, solidly exhibited in the high-caliber actors that are the strength of the series. Lawrence, Banks, Sutherland, and Hoffman are all standouts, with the nice addition of Moore as a political player with dubious motives.

Like Harry Potter’s second-to-last film, MjP1 is essentially a glorified first act to a two-part story. This will leave some wanting, especially in the areas of action and closure. However, with the amount of passion, scenery-chewing, and complex commentary within, it left me more than satisfied, while excited about the next one. Emotionally powerful and socially conscious, MjP1 is a massive step up in the zeitgeist-y franchise.

4 out of 5 stars

 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

By Cole Schneider

I enjoyed the first two Hunger Games instalments, but I always get nervous when a studio decides to break-up a penultimate chapter. Recently, Harry Potter and Twilight have done so and The Hobbit was split into three films. It has been done successfully, but it’s a tricky proposition. After all, we don’t want to pay $10 to watch the placeholder before the real ending. “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part One” pulls it off because it functions not only as a narrative placeholder, but also forges its own thematic identity.

Narratively, this instalment is radically different than its two predecessors. There are no Hunger Games here, just traditional post-apocalyptic chaos. To help, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) must overcome mental instability and the limited self-view she carries. While she longs to make sacrifices for those who have sacrificed for her, she is hindered mostly by her lack of confidence. She becomes a fascinating surrogate for her primary audience–adolescent girls with self-image concerns.

The late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman returns as Plutarch in an advisory role to the rebellion President (Julianne Moore) and urges Katniss to embrace her role as the emotional leader of the people. Naturally, she resists. She’s a great warrior; she’s not a great celebrity. It is a role she must grow to accept, and a role that must conform to her personality.

For all of its story’s tiredness, “THGMP1” is surprisingly provocative. Commenting on everything from PTSD to propaganda, marketing, and group-think; meditating on everything from wartime sacrifice to teenage insecurity; and hinting at a conclusion bringing even larger themes to come, “THGMP1” is a successful, if curiously action-absent entry into the Hunger Games film canon.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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