‘Mockingjay’ Leads Revolution

Fans and rebels of Panem alike were dying to see Katniss on the big screen Friday night. “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay –– Part 1,” the penultimate installment in the Hunger Games franchise, departs from the action-packed sequences and lush scenery of its predecessors. It instead explores the birth of a revolution and the waning grip of an oppressor.

Courtesy of LIongate

Courtesy of Liongate

Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself in the dark underground corridors of District 13. Long thought to have been destroyed, the District has been planning an overthrow of Panem’s oppressive government for nearly a hundred years and Katniss is just the symbol they need to finally rally the people together.

Mockingjay abandons any games from its narrative, but that’s not to say that the conflict pitting everyone against everyone has ended. Katniss still finds herself surrounded by friends and enemies equally willing to use her to further their own agendas. The most notable of those people is President Alma Coin, a new addition to the roster and played by Julianne Moore. Coin is the leader of the rebellion, but her intentions are questionable to say the least.

The cast does a terrific job of keeping the politically-oriented narrative engaging –– particularly Lawrence, Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket), Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy), Donald Sutherland (President Coriolanus Snow) and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as the master strategist behind the rebellion, Plutarch Heavensbee. They bring a very authentic human quality to the script that connects on an emotional level with members of the audience.

Lawrence, undeniably the shining star of the series, was faced with the daunting challenge of delivering some tough speeches as she calls the people of Panem to action in a series of rebel propaganda –– “propos” for short. As expected, Lawrence is radiant in sending those messages with sublime charisma.

The visual aspects of the film differ from the open lushness of the first two. Gone are the blue skies and open green forests. Charred earth, burning corpses, cramped dank tunnels and skies smoggier than Los Angeles take their place. Just for a moment, the lushness returns to highlight the tender romance between Lawrence’s character, and co-star Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne.

While many books translate poorly to film, director Francis Lawrence has no such problem with “Mockingjay.” On the contrary, he expands on the text –– even adding new material and narratives that are impossible to see from the limited point-of-view presented in the novel. Lawrence enhances much of the meaning that can get lost in the text and makes it accessible to a wide audience of fans and viewers.

His clever use of lighting, music and literary interpretation are all reasons why he has been trusted with the direction of one of the biggest franchises in film history.

“Mockingjay –– Part I” likely won’t be the film audiences remember for years to come. At the end of the day, it is a precursor to the climax of the coming sequel. “Mockingjay –– Part II” will either capitalize on this and immortalize the Hunger Games series or it will fail to live up to its predecessors. One thing is for sure: fans will eagerly be awaiting the finale’s release in 2015.

 

RECOMMENDED: Part 1 of “Mockingjay” is incredibly smart and shows the cast and crew at their best.