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A transitional story tells the beginning of the beginning of the end.

 
Immediately after the events of Catching Fire, Katniss Everdeen is reluctantly made the image of the resistance against President Snow and The Capitol bureaucrats as Panem’s cold civil war ignites. Though unsure and unclear as to how her actions have affected the people of the broken nation, Katniss follows through the motions at the behest of Plutarch Heavensbee, under the watchful eye of rebellion President Alma Coin.

 
Jennifer Lawrence and Donald Sutherland reprise their roles as the opposing forces in the penultimate chapter of Suzanne Collins’ teen fiction story (broken into two feature film parts, as has become the standard). Julianne Moore joins the cast as the stone-faced President Coin, and, thankfully, makes her best effort not to leave the uninformed parents confusing her with Kate Winslet’s character from Divergent. And, Liam Hemsworth’s character Gale has more of a supporting role to play than he did in the previous Games films. Elizabeth Banks returns for some very brief, forgettable moments as Effie Trinket.

 
Unlike the previous stories, this one takes a very different turn. With no Games to follow this time around, the rebels instead take advantage of hacking the nationwide broadcast monopoly to quietly instill disorder in the decrepit districts around the nation (the ones still standing, anyway). Katniss is more or less thrown into the mix as the best voice for the rebellion, a la Uncle Sam. With a team including a tattoo-clad Natalie Dormer, Katniss and her friend Gale visit broken areas of Panem and hold what is essentially a podcast of their experience and memories.

 
What they do not know is how their broadcasts are causing upheavals in other districts, much like those shown in previous films of the franchise, particularly when certain beloved characters die. And, as The Capitol fights to keep its grip on society, Katniss only wishes to retrieve her love Peeta (as well as some other Games Tributes) from President Snow’s clutches. It’s going to take an army to overthrow The Capitol, but is there more to this story than meets the eye?

 

Jennifer-Lawrence-Mockingjay-part1
Just be prepared, this is not at all like the previous two films. Much less drawn out action sequences, much more conversation. Dull at times? Maybe. One or two unnecessary subplots? Yes, if you are not a book follower. Fortunately, casting saves a lot of this film from being a relatively dull changeover film to bridge the events of Catching Fire to Mockingjay Part II. There is not nearly as much action, surprise, or charm which made the first two movies so enjoyable. And the on-screen violence is sometimes too much without enough build-up (may want to cover the kids’ eyes for the “defiance execution” scene). However, screen chemistry between Lawrence, Hoffman, Moore, and Hemsworth couldn’t be better suited. Though Hoffman’s character serves little more purpose than to encourage the PR of the rebellion with Katniss as its face, he does very well. Though Hoffman died before production of both films (shot simultaneously) wrapped, that is him in mostly every scene where his face is shown.

 
On the downside, sequels all face the challenge of living up to their predecessors, which, in the films, is a far cry for this series. While the two preceding entries focused much more on the Games themselves and the survival aspect of sticking together, the audience is stuck hoping for the protagonists’ survival, instead of rooting for them. Mockingjay Part I sadly falls very short of where both its predecessors not only succeeded, but also exceeded the expectations of many, from avid readers to objective film critics alike.

 
Here’s the problem: Mockingjay Part I has an overall feel that it was made for the book readers who get antsy about little things being left out. Yes, the stories of the first two books needed to be consolidated in order to fit under three hours. Both of them pushed it, whereas this entry barely clocks above the two-hour mark (and wait till you see the “cliffhanger”).

 
All in all, the story is coming to a close, and no fan wants that. It’s the classic argument of watching for the story and not the conclusion. The kids are forced to fight to the death, the people decided that’s not cool. Get to the point? Both of these films ARE the point! The conclusion in Part II will not be so passive and unremitting. However, this is certainly not a sequel one can just watch on its own without the others around. But book readers are not likely to have many complaints.

 
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Liam Hemsworth

About The Author

Contributing Writer

Herbert M. Shaw began writing movie reviews for his high school newspaper and hasn't stopped since. In 2005, his radio program "The Shaw Report" was started with WCDB Albany 90.9 FM in Albany, New York, and lives on with online streaming at www.wcdbfm.com. In addition to film and TV reviews, Herbert also covers a variety of pop culture events surrounding technology, gaming, and the arts. He has covered every single New York Comic Con since 2006, and writes an annual Oscar prediction guide.