Movie Breakdown: The Hunger Games saga continues in this sequel that finds Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) faced with a decision that could sway the fate of a nation. In the wake of the Quarter Quell, the Hunger Games have been changed forever, and Katniss ends up in District 13. Her courage having inspired a nation, the brave young heroine heeds the advice of her friends, and sets out to save Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). Meanwhile, Katniss’ fragile alliance with President Coin (Julianne Moore) could lead to disaster. (Jason Buchanan, Rovi)
To my readers: let me be honest from the start, I love the Hunger Games books. I’m willing to look past the total miscast of the major role of Peeta and still recommend the entire Hunger Games movie series, including the latest installment, Mockingjay, Part One. While I enjoyed this movie, I would recommend seeing at least Catching Fire (the previous HG film) first, as this movie lacks enough explanation of the plot for it to stand on its own.
Mockingjay Part One starts with Katniss attempting to adapt to her new life in District Thirteen, picking up right after the end of the previous film. Katniss, along with fellow tributes Finnick (Sam Clafin) and Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) have been saved from the arena and brought to District Thirteen, previously thought to have been destroyed by the Capital. Peeta (her fellow District Twelve tribute) has been taken by the Capital and that becomes a central issue for our main character, Katniss. Former Head Gamemaker Plutarch (Phillip Seymour Hoffmann), along with President Coin, are intent on using Katniss as the face of the revolution, no matter how much she protests. The movie tells the story of this next phase of trilogy, exploring the character of Katniss without Peeta and her natural instinct to mistrust the new form of government she’s experiencing in District Thirteen and with President Coin. This is a set up film, meant to prepare the viewer for the final installment of the series, something that has become all too common in book-to-movie productions. While being an avid fan I appreciate the level of detail and set up created with this film, as a standalone film it could be quite boring.
Again, while I enjoy this film, there is almost no way that a viewer who hasn’t read the books or seen the previous movies could keep up with the plot. That aside, it is a well executed movie and the special effects are spectacular. Creating the horror of firebombed District Twelve with gut-wrenching detail and the hyper modern landscape of the Capital with searing perfection, it’s visually stunning and properly precise. The underground living in District Thirteen feels dank, ominous and cramped, eliciting a feeling of claustrophobia in the audience.
Even though I know the books in great detail, I found myself gripped with fear during Peeta’s daring rescue from the Capital and the firebomb attack in District Eight. The sense of building dread envelops the film and the characters. The evil of the Capital and President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is clear to the audience and has built the base for the final film. On its own, the film doesn’t stand up, but it works as a part of the series and does a great job of setting up the final installment.
My verdict? See it! True fans will appreciate how close the script sticks to the book.