[Movie Review] 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' Sets Up Epic Finale
Jennifer Lawrence delivers another powerhouse performance in what is basically a two-hour teaser for what promises to be an epic finale to the massively popular Hunger Games movie franchise.
As spunky rebel arrow shooting ace Katniss Everdeen, Lawrence has already survived the titular Games twice, and in doing so this “Girl on Fire” (as she’s often referred) has inspired the depressed people of the fictional dystopic future world of Panem and sparked a rebellion against the evil President Snow, played once again with grave menace by Donald Sutherland.
North Carolina native Julianne Moore joins the action on the rebels side, as their leader, President Coin, who is at first unsure that Katniss is the right one to serve as this world’s new symbol of freedom for the oppressed.
In one of his final performances before his death earlier this year, Philip Seymour Hoffman returns as Plutarch Heavensbee, and is a marvel to watch as always.
Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta spends most of the film locked away as Snow’s prisoner, much like a princess awaiting her charming prince to come rescue her from an evil wizard in the classic fairy tales that much of the story mirrors, while Katniss’s loverlorn childhood pal Gale, played by Liam Hemsworth, finally gets a gun and joins the fight this time around.
The final shot of the previous film, last year’s Catching Fire, showed Katniss clearly getting mad enough at the opposing powers that be to help lead an all out war against them, but then this movie digresses and spends almost all of its running time in a constant, static state of will-she-or-won’t-she accept her destiny as the chosen one, if only so that the plot can finally get moving again. And for such a “tough” character, she cries a lot.
It worked for Harry Potter and the Twilight series, so it is certainly no surprise that the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy of novels was divided into two parts, but I was a bit shocked at how little actually happens in this latest entry. By the end, of course, Katniss finally makes her decision regarding the rebellion, but is still torn between Gale and Peeta in an unnecessarily languishing love triangle subplot.
She wants her cake and to eat it too, a rebel with a heart of gold who still rebels against even the rebellion, and a girl infatuated between two boys both clearly head over heels in love with her who wants them both to just keep being there in waiting.
Of course, if all this posturing and padding is only because the producers are saving the best stuff for the end, we should have quite a righteous final round of Games to play when Mockingjay Part 2 arrives next year.
My favorite scene is when Katniss uncharacteristically sings a folky little song for the cameras following her every move, which is then elevated when the people watching her all around Panem begin to take to the streets, all singing the same “Hanging Tree” song, a strong reminder that the power to inspire those around us to do good things and be better people is within us all, and that Katniss is just starting to find her voice.
Official Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars
Reviewed by: Matt Artz
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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (rated PG13) is now playing at R/C KDH Movies 10 in Kill Devil Hills, and at The Pioneer Theatre in Manteo through Dec. 11.