We’ve seen Katniss the warrior. We’ve met Katniss the shell-shocked. Now allow me to introduce you to Katniss the train wreck. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 picks up right where The Hunger Games: Catching Fire left off, essentially taking away the walls of the arena and replacing them with the walls of a windowless basement. In Mockingjay – Part 1 we leave the guarded words and sketchy allies behind to jump head-first into the heart of the rebellion.
District 13, it turns out, was not destroyed by the capital 75 years ago. Instead, it relocated to an underground facility, hoarded nuclear missiles, and bided time until the day it could once again own a colouful wardrobe. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) joins 13’s president, Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), and the Capital’s ex-game maker, Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), in uniting the frazzled Districts against the Capital. Katniss, nicknamed the Mockingjay, has become the face of the rebellion and must encourage the starving, wounded, weaponless citizens of the Districts to run head-first into heavy gunfire, work tirelessly in diseased, makeshift hospitals, and sacrifice themselves to gain minor advantages against the ever tactful and malicious President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Plus, every rallying speech Katniss makes, every propaganda commercial she releases, she does with the knowledge that the Capital will torture the captured Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) in retaliation. Needless to say, Mockingjay – Part 1 doesn’t shy away from the brutal stage set by the prequels.
This is a movie review so I don’t want to say too much about the books, but I will add that, like the first two movies, I liked the films better. Mockingjay – Part 1 takes you out of Katniss’ head and shows you behind the scenes scheming, Snow’s thought process, and the different ways each District chooses to fight back. Effie (Elizabeth Banks), a fan favourite in the first two films for her inappropriate snobbishness, is hardly mentioned in the final book. The movie, however, takes creative liberty with this fact and brings her in as Katniss’ stylist and escort. Thank God for that. With such a vicious setting, a few random acts of comedy are so, so welcome. But, like everyone else in 13, Effie is forced to sacrifice her daily manicures and don the same ugly, grey jumpsuit as the rest of the population. Talk about rebellion. Even with mere scraps to work with, Effie still manages to grace every scene in a new and improved outfit – as if we would expect anything less.
Because Mockingjay – Part 1 begins right where Catching Fire left off you feel a bit out of the loop, and it’s a bit tough to get back in the groove. The movie, like starting up an old truck engine, chugs and groans to begin with, only really revving into action when Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) walks in 20 minutes later with the energizing boost of insensitive sarcasm. Once in motion the plot has an excellent balance of action, quiet-time, and panic attacks. A simple little song can transition to an active briefing room before crescendoing to a Helm’s Deep battle in the span of three stanzas. The scenes are never too long, no character in this huge cast gets more screen time than necessary, and the whole movie is a very respectable 123 minutes. I only wonder if in this dystopian world of haute couture and high tech everything if the rebels could have found another codename in addition to “Mockingjay” which they currently use for everything, including the girl, the hovercraft, and covert missions. It’s a wonder headquarters can keep every “Mockingjay” straight.
The new cast fits into the old one quite smoothly. Julianne Moore’s fake contacts drove me a little nuts and some of Peeta’s fashion choices look more like Versace choke holds, but in all Mockingjay – Part 1 is a smooth movie that I was sorry to see the end of. I can foresee many movie marathons coming out of this trilogy/ tetralogy/ duology + (½ + ½) and therefore I hand it a 7.5/10.