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Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1




The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 (PG-13)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

11/27/14
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



 The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 (PG-13)

Katniss Everdeen becomes the personification of anti-Capitol rebellion in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1, a not-fillerish next-to-last chapter in the Hunger Games saga.
Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), who was forced to compete in the kid-fighting-kid Hunger Games twice, is now in the outlaw District 13, where she was taken after Games organizer turned revolutionary Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) rescued Katniss and fellow Games competitor Finnick (Sam Claflin) from the abruptly ended Games at the end of the last movie. Left behind were fellow competitors/compatriots Johanna (Jena Malone), Finnick’s sweetie Annie (Stef Dawson) and Katniss’ partner/love interest Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). But thanks to very secondary love interest Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Katniss isn’t alone in District 13. Gale brought her mother (Paula Malcomson) and her sister Primrose (Willow Shields) to District 13, which is mostly an underground military base, rescuing them from their native District 12 just before the Capitol (the ruling power in this new America called Panem) destroyed it and killed everyone in it. 
Shaken from the experience of the Games and worried about Peeta’s fate, Katniss isn’t in a mood to join the rebellion when District 13 president Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) tells her she’s to be the Mockingjay, the face of the rebellion and the star of propaganda films. But Katniss soon realizes that giving District 13 what it wants might get her what she wants, namely Peeta’s rescue. 
I realized at some point in this movie that I kinda didn’t care about the overarching story. While dystopias and how they work and how they can be brought down can be interesting story elements, perhaps I’m suffering from a bit of dystopia fatigue. I feel like I’ve seen and read about oodles of dystopias in the past few years, each brought down by a plucky girl and her band of rebels. I think I’m also suffering from a bit of franchise fatigue — when people and things from earlier movies were referenced, I found myself thinking “eh, whatever” without really attempting to consider how the mention or some new piece of information fit in to the overall story. And while, with other dystopia franchises, this kind of impatience with the saga might get in the way, it surprisingly doesn’t here. Katniss doesn’t seem to care all that much about the overarching story either. She continues to be about what she’s always been about, which is her people. Saving her sister, saving herself so that somebody would be there to hunt for her sister and mother, saving Peeta — these tasks have always been more interesting to her than either playing the Hunger Games the way the district wanted or, in this case, the uprising and District 13’s anti-the-Capitol government. She plays District 13’s game, the role of the freedom fighting Mockingjay, better and with more conviction than she did the celebrity contestant role but it’s still mostly a means to an end, the end being Peeta, whom she sees in Capitol-produced propaganda and who is getting sicker and sicker in the hands of the Capitol.
The movie does a good job putting Katniss in the reluctant-poster-girl position. It allows Lawrence to do what she’s best at in this role — distrust authority and be a bit of a sassy-pants. Even the movie’s attempts to remind us that there’s supposed to be a love triangle happening seem to get pushed aside — Katniss’ thin relationship with Gale doesn’t get nearly the story-telling meat given to Katniss’ relationship with Plutarch, the message creator, or with Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), her formerly drunken former mentor who is also in District 13 and, like Katniss, approaches the rebellion with a mix of true belief and self-interest. 
In fact, these supporting roles and others — Donald Sutherland’s hissing villain President Snow, Elizabeth Banks’ image consultant Effie Trinket, Natalie Dormer’s propaganda director and of course Hoffman — almost overwhelm the core Katniss story. Hoffman in particular is just so great to watch — even in a minor part like this, the man knew how to bring gravitas and layers. 
So you don’t really have to care about the fate of the rebellion. Or the “who will Katniss go to the prom with once Panem is a democracy” question, which even the movie doesn’t trouble itself much about, beyond a few anguished looks and one very chemistry-free kiss. Just watching these quality actors have fun in this bleak little playground is entertaining enough — I found myself completely engaged by the movie even when parts of the story didn’t.
And, since ’tis the season, where does Mockingjay fall on the whole-family entertainment continuum? While the movie and performances are strong enough to hold the attention of people with a passing knowledge of the overall story, this is likely not the movie to bring grandma to if she’s never seen a previous entry. The war violence is probably disturbing enough that I wouldn’t go under the recommended 13 age level either. Enthusiasts and their parents who have absorbed enough Panem lore will, however, be suitably entertained. B
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material. Directed by Francis Lawrence with a screenplay by Peter Craig and Danny Strong (from the book by Suzanne Collins), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 is two hours and three minutes long and is distributed by Lionsgate. 
 
As seen in the November 27, 2014 issue of the Hippo.





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