Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

     When Katniss Everdeen sacrificially volunteered for the Hunger Games to save her sister, she could not possibly have foreseen how that simple move would escalate into a nation-wide revolution wherein she herself would become the symbol of rebellion against the oppression of the government. Yet by her will or not, Katniss is the Mockingjay-- the mascot of civil disobedience, and Katniss can finally see that this rebellion is so much larger than what was begun in the Hunger Games, seemingly so long ago.

     Where Mockingjay Part One picks up, Katniss and Finnick, two of the three escapees from the Quarter Quell, are both confined in a facility in District 13 to be treated for post-traumatic stress, and to be protected from the Capital. Katniss wakes up screaming from nightmares of the games, she continually finds herself calling for Peeta, and she finds little comfort in the presence of her mother, sister, or friend Gale. In a way, Mockingjay Part One is a movie all about Katniss's emotions. The movie vacillates from putting Katniss in one situation after another so she can react to it. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it does make for rather slow story-telling for the first part of the movie.
Katniss has nightmares. She is upset.
Katniss sees her mom and sister. She is happy.
Katniss meets President Coin. She is mad because they didn't rescue Peeta.
Katniss goes to the ruins of District 12. She is upset.
Katniss sees Peeta on TV. She is upset.
And on it goes.

    Mockingjay Part One works mainly as rising action towards Part Two (which will probably already be released by the time I get this review written), which is fine, but means that Mockingjay Part One only works as part of the larger story, and doesn't stand on its own. Furthermore, because so much focus is placed on Katniss and how she feels, the movie's stellar supporting cast is largely glossed over. Thankfully, there is still enough Effie Trinket to bring some eye-rolling moments to the movie, but not nearly enough Haymitch Abernathy for comic levity. And there's just never enough of Plutarch Heavensbee, who is arguably one of the most interesting characters in the series, and ingeniously portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman. To its credit however, the movie needed to introduce and establish new characters, such as President Alma Coin, or Cressida and her film team, so Mockingjay did have a careful line to walk to avoid overcrowding the cast and story, and it really succeeds for the most part. While I might have enjoyed a little more investment in some of the side characters (like Finnick Odair and his own issues with PTSD), it can't be denied that Mockingjay Part One stays unwaveringly on target, even if somewhat ploddingly.

     As previously stated, Mockingjay Part One is, as the title suggests, only part of a bigger story. Therefore, the movie is unquestioningly designed as an installment; a piece that is not meant to feel complete without its predecessors and subsequent Mockingjay Part Two. The ending of Part One certainly sets up what will no doubt be an action-packed and emotionally charged Part Two, which admittedly, I can't wait to see.

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