Sunday, November 30, 2014

Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part I (2014)

           A Subtle Yet Intense Sequel That Amps Up My 'Hunger' For The Finale To Come Soon
         As a fan of the Hunger Games books, I will admit that if I had to pick my least favorite book of the trilogy, it would hands down be Mockingjay. The book only exists to provide closure to the series, in my opinion, and to provide a book in the series without any actual games. But not only does Mockingjay-Part I already surpass its source material, but it manages to be a successful slow buildup to what could be a grand finale when Part II rolls around.

            The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part I follows our main heroine, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) as she finally decides to become the symbol of hope and rebellion for the nation of Panem, known as the Mockingjay. In order to defend the nation against the Capitol, alongside District 13, led by President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), Katniss must have the other districts align with her while Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is held captive by President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

            First off, I'll get into the performances. At this point, I think us fans can agree that Jennifer Lawrence is the perfect Katniss. But here, not only did she embody Katniss' strength, but the craziness that Katniss goes through in the book. After the first two books and films, Katniss becomes slightly more unhinged and after the events she had to go through, it's not hard to see why. But this time around, Josh Hutcherson really brings a good amount of emotional depth and pathos to the character of Peeta. Before, I did feel that he embodied the character already, but here, I felt he gave a good amount of layers to the character. We mostly see him being interviewed by Capitol talk show host Caesar Flickerman, played by Stanley Tucci, but with each interview, it seems like each layer is being peeled off. For example, in the first interview, he seems a drone for the Capitol not really meaning what he says. But in the next one, while he continues to say what his heart isn't in, his eyes start to become more frantic and desperate. Julianne Moore is also fantastic as President Alma Coin and even though I knew it was her when on screen, I still felt I forgot it was her because of how she changed her appearance without altering her voice and this is yet another great performance in the banner year she is having since she also came out with Still Alice and the darkly comedic festival gem Maps To The Stars. Not to give anything away, but towards the end, Moore really embodies the uneasiness that I felt about her character when I first read the book. Philip Seymour Hoffman also brings a good amount of pathos to his portrayal of Plutarch Heavensbee and even though he tragically passed, hopefully we'll still get to see more of him in Part II as I really enjoyed his performance. All the other actors, including Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Jeffrey Wright, and Donald Sutherland, are all spectacular as well.

           I also liked how I was on edge because I was so anxious to see how they would end it and transition to Part II. I obviously won't say how, but when it finally happened, my heart was just pounding. I think because of that, when the action sequences came around, that whole anxious feeling only enhanced those scenes and made for a rather tense film-watching experience. I've actually read some complaints that there wasn't much action and while it wasn't exactly action-packed, when the action does take place, it leaves a huge impact and because there are so few of those scenes, it makes the first part seem like a slow burn up until the second comes out. The first part, as a whole, is meant to be a setup for the second and now, I am more than anxious for next November. But a few scenes I'd like to acknowledge are the ones where Katniss and her camera video are filming propaganda or "propo" videos. After those scenes, the film cuts to the different districts showing signs of rebellion and it adds to the whole effect of building up to the grand finale.


          Overall, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part I is a subtle yet powerful set up to what is left to come. The actors are all terrific and have truly embodied their characters they have portrayed over the course of the franchise, the direction by Francis Lawrence left me very tense, and the action sequences were terrific as well.

           Would I Recommend It?:
           If you are a Hunger Games fan, then absolutely. But if you haven't read the books or even seen the first two films, I would say that doing either one of those two or both is a must so you don't get confused or lost.

Grade: A-


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