Although it’s been done before several times now, I can only imagine how hard it must be to decide exactly where to split a book in half to make it two or more movies. Most novels have a beginning, middle, climax, and an end. What can a filmmaker do to leave audiences feeling satisfied when there’s no big payoff or conclusion to what they’re taking in? Here is where the problem lies for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1.”
Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) has brought down the Hunger Games. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and his forces look to stomp out a revolution that could end his reign. Katniss reluctantly accepts her place as the symbol of freedom for the band of rebels quickly rising in each District. She must also find a way to save Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) from certain doom as he's been captured and is being held in the Capital.
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1” feels exactly like what it is. It’s half a book and movie that leaves you starved for more. Many will say that’s exactly what it is and I understand that. However, I’ve seen several other franchises do the exact same thing and it felt way more satisfying. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” and “Twilight: Breaking Dawn” immediately come to mind.
Jennifer Lawrence is definitely one of the “It” actors of the moment. I must say I was surprised at her performance in many of the more emotionally charged scenes in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1.” It was as if she was having difficulties connecting with the character of Katniss Everdeen when it came to her crying or showing anxiety over the events she’s dealt with. It was as if she couldn’t find that place within her that helps to muster the tears or empathy it takes to appear convincingly tormented.
As the series moves forward towards its epic finale, I’m impressed with how they expand on social issues we’re dealing with in real life. The one that stood out to me in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1” was Finnick’s revelation that the President uses the attractive tributes as sex slaves to serve his political purposes. Sex trafficking and slavery is something that’s happening today in our own backyards and not many people know how serious or prevalent it is.
With the continuing success of each film before it, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1” ups the ante when it comes to special effects and visual splendor. The CGI and what appear to be location shots are fabulous and lend an air of authenticity to the movie. Whether filmmakers shot more in actual settings or just utilized improved computer animation, the outcome is a grander piece of art.
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images, and thematic material. It’s no more graphic than either of the previous films when it comes to battles. There are scenes of charred and burned bodies twisted in the ruins of District 12 which many might find uncomfortable. The only other warning I would give concerns Finnick exposing the President for using him as a sex slave.
If you go into “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1” knowing it isn’t as fulfilling or exciting as the first or second entries in the franchise you’ll be alright. Entering the theater with the expectation that you’re watching the first half of a movie which will provide no sort of closure or satisfaction is your best bet. Maybe it does exactly what Lionsgate and Director Frances Lawrence wants it to do. It leaves you frustrated and wanting the rest of the meal immediately.
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