Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, The (2014)

Review #1,104

Director:  Francis Lawrence
Cast:  Jennifer LawrenceJosh HutchersonLiam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore
Plot:  When Katniss destroys the games, she goes to District 13 after District 12 is destroyed. She meets President Coin who convinces her to be the symbol of rebellion, while trying to save Peeta from the Capitol.

Genre:  Action / Sci-Fi
Awards:  Nom. for 1 Golden Globe - Best Original Song
Runtime:  123min
Rating:  PG13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material.

“I have a message for President Snow: If we burn, you burn with us!”

The Hunger Games series is very much rooted in the ideology of the revolution, of uprising, in particular of hate and anger.  As such, and considering that it is arguably the most successful young adult franchise since the megahits that were the Harry Potter movies, it is at once a film with a dangerous message – that of wanting to burn eternally with your enemy, yet also liberating to see in ways that I hope will empower youths positively. 

Fight for change, challenge the very authority seeking to clamp you down, and don't ever lose sight of what you are battling for.  There is a small measure of irony that the Media Development Authority did not find the political subtext subversive enough to, ahem, ban it.  If they did, there would be no escape route for them.

Jennifer Lawrence is fully in her element here.  Ever so assured in her portrayal of Katniss Everdeen, who has become the face of the uprising, it is almost impossible to see the character played by any other Hollywood actress in her age bracket.  Lawrence has since comfortably transited into Katniss from the outset in the first The Hunger Games (2012), and then further her transformation in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013). 

Now she must be the 'Mockingjay', the symbol of hope against authoritarianism.  As the first part of the climactic two-parter, the film does suffer from the usual 'halfway', episodic syndrome that is the raison d’ĂȘtre of television.  It ends on a dramatic high, and in some way, the film quite excellently raises the stakes.  The only thing to do now is to wait.

Director Francis Lawrence shows his big-game form again after the success of Catching Fire, and fans should count themselves lucky to have a filmmaker who knows a thing or two about blockbusters, and one who desires to prove his worth as an adept director after average efforts like I am Legend (2007).

The Hunger Games franchise is the kind of high-stakes project to jolt anyone up every morning.  With solid acting from the ensemble cast, and one of the more effective scores from composer James Newton Howard in recent years, Mockingjay Part 1, as I would like to think, temporarily eases your hunger, hopefully as a prelude to a feast. 

Jennifer Lawrence also sings a song in the movie, and the way it is intertwined with Howard's music, and matched to scenes of bravery and sacrifice is arguably the highlight of this decent new installment to the franchise.

Verdict:  A quite excellent raising-the-stakes effort that temporarily eases your hunger, hopefully as a prelude to a feast.


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