By Darin Skaggs

The Hunger Games franchise began as another big book series being made into an epic film saga. It all started with the ten year long journey we took with the characters from the Harry Potter books. The first The Hunger Games was a disappointment and just seemed to be a filmed version of the best parts of the book. Last year’s Catching Fire came out and exceeded any expectations due to Francis Lawrence taking over the series. He takes on the next instalment that furthers the story of revolution started by the acts of our hero, Katniss Everdeen.

After the horrifying events of the Quarter Quell Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself in the unknown District 13. Here they are strict, tough and concentrated on their goal which makes sense because they are a military base. President Coin (Julianne Moore) and her team, which include Philip Seymour Hoffman, convince her to film commercials to aggravate the other Districts so they all will start a revolution and take down the Capitol once and for all. All the while Katniss deals with the fact that Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) has been taken by the Capitol, along with other tributes from the Quarter Quill, and in interviews he is siding with the bad guys.

With any takeover, there are wins and there are loses. This is what this film is about. Katniss and a film crew go out into the other districts which some have been completely destroyed. There are a few wonderful moments which our team has victories including the blowing of a dam and a Zero Dark Thirty like finale. That mostly happens in the last hour of the film. The first half is exploring Katniss’ sadness and her making these propaganda films.

The journey of Katniss makes great progress in this installment. In the first Hunger Games, she just makes survival choices and tries to do the right thing in such an immoral situation. And because of it she becomes a hero to the other Districts which is explored in Catching Fire. Here in Mockingjay the window for stopping the Capitol is reaching its close. So here in Part 1, we see Katniss stepping up as the symbol of the revolution instead of others giving her that title. Also this is very dark. Lots of casualties happen during the course of this film, many sacrifices are given to save the Districts. One of the opening lines is “I wish we were all dead” said by Finnick about the tributes, then about just everyone in this land. The final few images are chilling and leaves you with a sense of dread for Part 2.

As always Jennifer Lawrence does great work. Most everyone else does great work as well. This is part one of two and at times it shows that this is the first half of what is a single source material. The new characters who are mostly the film crew do not seem fully realized. One of them has a vine tattoo on the side of her head and another has no tongue on a count of the Capitol yet none of them seem like people we know after leaving the theater, even though we should. Classic characters are not used to their fullest due to the fact it is split into two parts even though it should be one.

Francis Lawrence does his best with having to split the finale into two parts and succeeds doing so. The acting is truly wonderful, at times award worthy. It leaves you with a knot in your stomach that you know will not be unraveled until next year, like it should.


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