ByJerome Maida, writer at
Jerome Maida

Run, don't walk, to see "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1".

If there was any doubt that Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss Everdeen is an iconic character, this movie should dispel them.

If anyone still questions why Lawrence has one of those "Golden Guys" on her shelf..well, this movie should answer them, as well.

This is a darker, more mature "Hunger Games" film. Like the franchise and Lawrence herself, Katniss Everdeen continues to grow - as her world has been shattered and her very existence has grown to mean different things.

Lawrence's Everdeen experiences - and conveys - rage, sorrow, panic, anxiety, steel will, a tender touch - as well as a hammering fist.

Oh, and of course, an uncanny knack for shooting arrows.

I could go on about Lawrence's performance (and likely will in the future) but suffice to say it is memorable - and unique to her character.

Without giving too much away, the devastation to Katniss's home district is truly heartbreaking. Even if you have seen hundreds of post-apocalyptic stories on the big and small screens, you likely have no heart or soul if you don't feel SOMETHING when Katniss witnesses the devastation - and that's not even the MOST emotional part of the film.

That comes when the Capitol, led by Donald Sutherland's President Snow, commits a truly unforgivable act that proves Snow is one irredeemable son of a bitch.

It is an act that really allows Lawrence to embrace the "badass mode" that many feel she lacked in the first two films. Her anger and rage would melt steel.

This film is definitely darker and is leavened a bit by humor that comes across as not campy, but rather what people would say just to get through another day in such dire circumstances.

However, even while trying to counteract Snow, Katniss Everdeen never loses her complexity.

Josh Hutcherson's Peeta comes across as weak, principled or pragmatic depending on your point of view. Meanwhile, Liam Hemsworth's Gale is his polar opposite - willing to do whatever he can for the rebellion led by Katniss, the woman he also loves. Both actors do fine work and are memorable.

Philip Seymour Hoffman's Plutarch Heavensbee, Woody Harrelson's Haymitch Abernathy and Willow Shields's Primrose Everdeen are all memorable and powerful and..unique. They all add to a film that is truly complex and asks and addresses such questions as: Does violence beget violence? What is the best way to overcome oppression? How do you fight evil without being touched with a bit of the devil yourself?

Which brings us to Julianne Moore's President Alma Coin. Her interactions with Katniss brings out the best in both characters. Coin is, of course, on the side of the rebels. But her tone and actions carry a sense of foreboding to them as well. You see just a hint of how she could easily become like Snow - and how Katniss could easily become like her.

Moore has always been one of my favorite actresses. Her interactions with Katniss and - to a lesser extent - Plutarch, are the highlights of the film.

You have to wonder if Moore wishes she had been offered a role in a franchise like "The Hunger Games" when she was Lawrence's age.

But she is in a beauty of a franchise now. So is Lawrence.

They're two of the many - but main - reasons "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1" gets my highest possible recommendation.


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