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Nov. 25, 2014

"Mockingjay" dips and soars

by Ellie Struewing, Online Features Editor
The first Hunger Games film adaptation, which premiered in 2012, took the movie industry by storm and paved the way for a burst of formulaic dystopian movies ("Maze Runner," "Divergent," etc.). But the Hunger Games series itself is far from formulaic, and that's what made Suzanne Collins' books and their movie adaptions so popular. The basic premise, for the few that don't know already, is that two child tributes from each of the 12 districts in Panam are randomly selected and placed in an arena where they fight to the death until one tribute remains. Riding the momentum of "Harry Potter" and "Twilight," the last book in the Hunger Games trilogy is being split into two movie adaptations.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I

(released November 21, 2014)
The final Hunger Games book is being split into two movies, and "Mockingjay-Part 1" is the first. Courtesy of NY Daily News
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The final Hunger Games book has been split into two movies following the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises.

"Mockingjay Part 1," directed by Francis Lawrence, picks up right where the second film left off and sticks pretty closely to the book. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself a survivor of her second Hunger Games and in the elusive underground District 13. Katniss agrees to be the Mockingjay, or symbol of rebellion, that will hopefully convince the rest of the fractured districts to rise up and fight the tyrannical President Snow (Donald Sutherland). However, she and the rest of District 13 are thrown off guard when they learn that the Capitol kidnapped and is brainwashing Katniss' fellow District 12 tribute and love interest, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Katniss receives help through the movie by her trusty team of allies, including her childhood best friend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), and rebel organizer Plutarch Heavensbee (played by the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, to whom the movie is dedicated). Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) plays a smaller role in the third film than he did in the first two, but is his usual unreliable yet lovable self.

While it is not the most satisfying movie in the franchise, "Mockingjay" does its job: it prepares audiences for the undoubtedly thrilling final installment (which is set for a November 2015 release). Katniss seems to make her way through the movie in a constant state of agony and on the verge of tears, which can get repetitive, but she does have some standout moments. In order to rally the districts, Katniss shoots promotional videos and one of them takes place in front of a recently bombed hospital. As Lawrence shouts into the camera, it's hard not to get goose bumps, and her powerful words, "If we burn, you burn with us," seem to echo throughout the theater. Lawrence is in her element when Katniss' anger overpowers her sadness. Julianne Moore is convincing in her role as the strong-willed but wary leader of District 13, President Coin, and the combination of her pin-straight gray hair and powerful aura make her stand out in a jumble of forgettable performances.

While there is the occasional fight scene or battle, most of the movie is spent in the dark underground of District 13, and the plot moves slowly. The sluggish pace is in part remedied by the fact that since the last book is being split into two movies, there is more space to be true to the book. With the exception of a few minor differences, the movie follows the book pretty accurately.
Katniss and Gale have a quiet moment while hunting in the forests around District 13. Courtesy of Gigjets
Katniss and Gale have a quiet moment while hunting in the forests around District 13.

Unlike the glamorous settings of the other Hunger Games movies, the characters encounter mostly smoking ruins and destruction above ground. There is no fancy arena, no lavish Capitol, no bustling districts, leaving behind a dark and dense movie. Perhaps the only comic relief in the entire film comes from Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket, the posh and fashion-oriented Capitol escort.

The soundtrack has a few standout moments, the most obvious being "The Hanging Tree", a haunting song sung by Lawrence, which was arranged by the Lumineers and composer James Newton. In addition, Lorde's "Yellow Flicker Beat" is the perfect song to capture the dark mood of the film. Lorde curated the soundtrack, bringing together a variety of artists such as CHVRCHES and Ariana Grande for a refreshing diversity of sound.

"Mockingjay-Part 1" is not the most exciting movie, but for fans of the series who plan on seeing the last movie, it is worth a watch.



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  • Daniel S. on December 17, 2014 at 1:24 PM
    I find it unfortunate that most of the reviews about Mockingjay always bring up the same point - that Katniss spends so much of the movie in anguish - yet they neglect to consider that Katniss is someone who is suffering from extreme PTSD, who feels culpable for thousands of deaths, including the annihilation of her District, and who has had her love torn away from her and is being forced into a figure that (albeit only initially) she does not want to be.

    So yes, she is "in a constant state of agony" - I'm not sure what else you'd expect.
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