Sunday, April 05, 2015

Movie Review - The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (2014)
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Sam Claflin, Jeffrey Wright, and Stanley Tucci
Directed by Francis Lawrence

Admittedly, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 doesn't really go anywhere and it ends on roughly the same emotional note at which it begins, but I found the continuation of the dystopian saga oddly intriguing in that we've finally moved on from the arena-esque battle-to-the-death melees and have instead shifted focus to what has always been most intriguing about the series -- the government's manipulation of its people and those who try to rise up and fight those in charge.  While many critics harangued the cash grab to split Mockingjay into two parts, I couldn't help but find myself thoroughly involved in the goings-on of Part 1 of this final installment.

Following the nasty Quarter Quell in which President Snow (Donald Sutherland) forced previous Hunger Games winners to come back and fight to the death, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and a few of her fellow Tributes were rescued by the secret District 13 of Panem.  Headed by President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and aided by President Snow's former colleague Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Katniss is asked to become a propaganda tool for District 13's attempts to overthrow Snow.  After reluctantly agreeing, Katniss heads out across the various districts, filming and seeing first-hand the damage that Snow and his government is inflicted on the lower class districts.

Of course, this wouldn't be a Hunger Games film if there wasn't some love triangle angle and Katniss still finds herself torn between her two men -- Gale (Liam Hemsworth), who valiantly tried to save his people when District 12 came under attack but now resides in District 13, and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) who was taken by Snow after the Quarter Quell and is being manipulated by the government to spout Snow's agenda.  Katniss' struggle over who to love still continues here without any real resolution.

I know that I shouldn't care for Mockingjay - Part 1 and I should be ticked off that the Powers That Be stunted the momentum of the franchise by separating the final part of this trilogy into two installments, but despite the slower pace, I think that this first installment works.  Maybe it was just the change of pace from the war games-style flick to a revenge/vengeance-style film, but I found the film totally watchable and able to hold my attention.  Admittedly, Jennifer Lawrence's take on Katniss is wearing a little thin and her range of emotions is anything but subtle, but the rest of the cast helps carry the film beyond typical teen fare.  The addition of Julianne Moore here is a welcome treat who manages to elevate the whole affair and gives her character a surprising amount of hutzpah in just a few scenes.  Overall, color me surprised considering the critical thrashing this film received upon its release.  This edition of Mockingjay has me looking forward to the finale of this surprisingly enjoyable series.

The RyMickey Rating:  B

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