Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games saga is undeniably difficult to put down when you start reading it. Page by page, chapter by chapter, from the Hunger Games to Mockingjay, the adventures of Katniss Everdeen is indefinitely harrowing and the cinematic installments attempt to rival their literary counterparts.
Walking out of the theater after the screening of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I, the first thought I had once the credits began to roll, after paying tribute to the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman of course, made me happy: they finally got it right! The first words that left my mouth put a smile on my face: SHUT UP LORDE!!! (I’m not a fan of the soundtrack or its curator as the I guess you could call it a “song” Yellow Flicker Beat began to play once the film ended).
Anyway, I came away impressed with what Francis Lawrence wanted to accomplish with the third cinematic chapter of the Hunger Games saga starring Jennifer Lawrence, who I just can’t help but like watching her work as she continues to impress me with how she does justice to the character of Katniss Everdeen, this strong, emotionally adverse young woman who has chosen to become the face of the rebellion in Panem after she broke the Hunger Games.
The film begins where Catching Fire left off: Katniss and fellow victors Finnick Odair, played by Sam Claflin, and Beetee, played by Jeffery Wright were whisked away to the vast underground facility known as District 13, where gamesmaker Plutarch Heavensbee, Hoffman in one of his final acting roles, and President Alma Coin, played by Academy Award nominee Julianne Moore, debate as to whether Katniss has the fortitude to rally the districts against the tyranny of the Capitol and President Snow, played by Golden Globe winner Donald Sutherland.
All Katniss can think about is whether or not her fellow victor Peeta Mellark, played by Josh Hutcherson, is alive after the Quarter Quell was brought to a halt, but when she sees the leveled, charred, mass-graveyard that was once Katniss’ home, District 12, where sweeping hoards of rock, rubble, debris and ashes are unofficial headstones for the citizens who didn’t escape the savage firebomb barrage after the Games went dark, Katniss decides that she will fight back!
Mockingjay, by a sensible margin, was my favorite of the Hunger Games literary series, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt I was by far my favorite installment of the cinematic rendition because I felt that director Francis Lawrence, screenwriters Danny Strong and Peter Craig, editors Alan Edward Bell and Mark Yoshikawa, cinematographer Jo Williams finally captured the proper size and scope of the story based on the book and brought the right intensity to the feature.
The evidence of the tone that harmonizes between the book and the movie could be when Katniss has her reunion with Peeta near the end of the film. For those who want me to spoil, I will counter with: read the book! The cinematography of that sequence, with Hutcherson and Lawrence’s acting was damn near perfect because the intensity of that moment was near identical to the experience I had reading that section of the book.
The decision to split Mockingjay into a two-part installment makes a lot of sense because it give the authors of the story a chance to insert every detail, no matter how minor, from the book in order for the film to be as compelling and irresistible as Collins’ storytelling; The Hunger Games Mockingjay Pt. I, doesn’t play it as safe as the previous two installments and it comes out as a big leap forward compared to the last two movies. Credit must be given to director Francis Lawrence and the screenwriting team of Danny Strong and Peter Craig for their due diligence in telling half of Katniss’ most trying experience to date.
Jennifer Lawrence has clearly grown comfortable as this character who is described as being put through the emotional ringer but every step she makes is going to be another installment of pain for herself; Lawrence really taps into the essence of this character and she does a great job of bringing doing Katniss justice to her own fans and to the fans of the Hunger Games saga.
The rest of the cast including familiar faces such as Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci as well new faces such as Mahershala Ali, Natalie Dormer and Patina Miller are all likeable with the work they are given.
For the fans of the Hunger Games saga, they will be satisfied with what half of Mockingjay has become. For those who are not fans of the books, they will be reasonably entertained by a, let’s call it a small-scale war epic where rebels are creating dissent and chaos against a tyrannical government (gee that sounds familiar).
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt I, is a movie that builds itself to usher in something that promises to be bigger and more extensive than itself and it is successful in that venture because the second half of Mockingjay is supposed to be a more dangerous and heart-racing ride than anything in the Hunger Games saga where the characters are practically unrecognizable from the first time readers and audiences encounter them. I reiterate: they finally got it right!