The Hunger Games series heads towards a finale, while maintaining the same intrigue and excitement...
Mockingjay is the third and final part of the Hunger Games book trilogy by Suzanne Collins, yet the film adaptation follows a trend set forth by the movie version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: presenting the finale in two back-to-back films. This is something that I still find a little strange. Then again, I do begin to see the rationale behind it. Even if The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 ends at a midpoint, the final scene still has the feel of an ending, at least partially because it also provides a cliffhanger. Bottom line: enjoy this movie for what it is, knowing that The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 will eventually wrap everything up.
Following her second Hunger Games competition in the previous movie, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) wakes up in a hospital bed. Although she is alive and close to fully recovered, one thing still bothers her: Peeta, her companion in the games, is missing. He might be dead or imprisoned by the Capitol. Soon, she learns something else. Her actions in the last Hunger Games have inspired revolution among the impoverished Districts, which in turn has forced Capitol officers to clamp down. She is then given a request: be the leader, the face, of the revolt against the Capitol.
This is where the title comes in. Katniss is to be known as the Mockingjay, a reference to the bird in this fictional universe that echoes back the sounds it hears. This is happening just as President Snow issues a ban against all images and depictions of the mockingjay. Also, there is still the risk that the Capitol will maintain its power over the Districts, because the rebels may be dangerous but it appears that they're also not fully united. That is, until Katniss steps in as the Mockingjay to rally everyone to the cause.
This movie has some good action, enough to not make this movie disappointing. At the same time, don't expect an epic battle scene just yet (presumably, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 will give us that). The focus of the story in this movie is the start of revolution and the preparations for the next steps. Much of it involves filming Katniss to make propaganda videos that rally the District residents while frustrating the Capitol and its efforts to defeat the rebellion. Still, there are two good scenes that involve specific Districts fighting back against their Capitol guards, providing eye candy as well as something to push the story forward.
Given that this movie is in the later part of the Hunger Games series, expect to see many returning cast members. They include Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Philip Seymour Hoffman (may he rest in peace), and Jeffrey Wright. There is also a new cast member: Julianne Moore, who plays a rebellion leader and a military commander and does a nice job in the role. It's interesting to see the characters again and the sides of the conflict they are on. What makes it more interesting is that one major character who had been allied with the Districts may now be on the side of the Capitol.
Overall, the good news is that The Hunger Games hasn't lost steam, and I imagine that the final film will be at least as satisfying, if not more so. This is an example of a series that follows the same formula throughout. It may prevent originality and creativity to elevate the series as it goes on, but at least it prevents the series from going stagnant. With that, it's time to wait for the conclusion in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 and finally see what Katniss Everdeen is really made of.
Anthony's Rating: 7/10
(Review originally published at http://www.anthonysfilmreview.com/Film/H/The_Hunger_Games_Mockingjay_Part_1.htm)