By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

For this second-to-the-last installment of the Hunger Games saga, director Francis Lawrence and writers Peter Craig, Danny Strong, and Suzanne Collins have taken a much more serious and dramatic approach.  In fact this movie feels more real-world than the hyper-stylized world established in the first two installments.  The result is a compelling dramatic piece, but one that lacks the fiery action and thrills of the first two.  The slower pace of the film also has me thinking that Mockingjay probably could have been adapted into one film instead of two. That said; Part 1 of Mockingjay comes across as mostly set-up for a grand climactic installment. 

After the events of Catching Fire, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has been rescued by the rebels and is being taken by Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to their headquarters in District 13. Plutarch and President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) hope to recruit Katniss to be the face of the rebellion to inspire others to rise up against President Snow and the oppression of the capitol.  She reluctantly agrees under the condition that she and the rebels will rescue Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) who is being held captive by President Snow.

Though the journey of the character remains compelling in this installment, the missing action and fun are certainly felt.  The movie also drags a little in parts, feeling a bit over-extended than necessary.  Not yet having seen the final film, and not having read the books, I’m not sure how much more story is left to tell.  However, I honestly would have preferred a slightly longer third movie that ends the saga than having one additional unnecessary film. As much as I liked this installment, I feel that so much time gets wasted and that a more efficient screenplay could have ended the franchise with one movie.

That is not to say that this chapter is a total bore because it does have some engaging drama and the strong performances of the cast members makes most of these moments work.  Jennifer Lawrence continues to impress as she matures with Katniss.  She has not yet failed to impress me with any of her roles, but I do love that she puts her heart and soul into all of her performances.  Joshua Hutcherson shows much more range as Peeta as this character takes a much more dramatic and complex journey.  In Part 1, the audience gets only a taste of what’s in store, but it is one impressive sample.  Liam Hemsworth gets more screen time and therefore, more room to show his acting chops here.  He and his brother Chris are talented actors and have the ability to perform as leading men.  It should go without saying that Donald Sutherland, Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, and Elizabeth Banks all shine in their respective roles.  It truly is bittersweet to see the extraordinary Philip Seymour Hoffman in the final role of his career.  I look forward to seeing him one more time in the final Hunger Games movie.

And it just so happens that the main thing that this film gets right is building up anticipation for the final movie.  I am most certainly hoping that the final film will be an epic war of the rebels versus the government with Katniss still fighting to save Peeta.  With all of the set-up and build up in this movie, it would be rather disappointing if the last chapter ends anticlimactically. However, we will have to wait another year to find out.



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