Title: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Director: Francis Lawrece

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemswroth, Josh Hutcherson, Julianne Moore, Donald Sutherland, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Woody Harrelson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Stanley Tucci and Elizabeth Banks

Having the inner emotional strength and capability to not only protect yourself and the people who are the closest to you throughout difficult times of war and turmoil is an intense burden for anyone to take on, especially for a teenager. But when a person naturally embodies the ability to lead not only their loved ones in the fight against their oppressors, but also powerfully influence an entire country who believes in their ideals and skills, their guidance becomes even more valuable to making the much-needed changes in their society. Katniss Everdeen, the motivational leader of hope and promise in ‘The Hunger Games’ film series, which is based on author Suzanne Collins’ best-selling novel trilogy of the same name, has powerfully returned to her rightful post of influencing her country in the new adventure sci-fi adaptation, ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1,’ which was helmed by its returning series director, Francis Lawrence.

‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1’ follows Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) in the immediate aftermath of her rescue from the Quarter Quell, which further unified many citizens of Panem in their struggle to stop the power and influence of The Capitol. The Hunger Games joint victor is shocked to discover that she has awoken in the deep, dark underground of the supposedly annihilated District 13. She’s even more surprised to be greeted by her mother (Paula Malcomson); younger sister, Primrose (Willow Shields); lifelong friend and love interest, Gale (Liam Hemsworth); and some of her other friends and neighbors from District 12 and the games who helped support her rebellion against Panem’s oppressive leader, President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

In an effort to make a further statement of revolt against President Snow and The Capitol’s repressive leaders, Katniss is persuaded by District 13’s ruler, President Coin (Julianne Moore), and former Head Gamemaker, Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a leading force in the rebellion, to guide the population against their oppressors. While Katniss is initially hesitant to reprise her duties as the Mockingjay, she quickly changes her mind when she discovers that The Capitol has turned her former home into nothing but rubble, and killed most of the population. Katniss becomes even more infuriated when she learns that Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) was captured by Panem’s leaders, who have brainwashed him into appearing on TV to convince people to end their threats of launching civil war.

Katniss sets out to prove the disastrous and manipulative tricks President Snow has unleashed on Panem with the help of Gale, who is now working in the forefront of the revolt with the rebel leaders in District 13. Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), the only other District 12 victor of The Hunger Games, as well as the former publicity representative for District 12 tributes, Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), and Katniss’ ally in the Quarter Quell, Finnick Odair, (Sam Claflin), also set out to help the young rebellion leader’s fight. During their desperate attempt to protect the citizens of Panem and District 13, Katniss and her supporters also set out to rescue Peeta and the Quarter Quell’s other survivors-Finnick’s girlfriend, Annie Cresta, and Johanna Mason (Jena Malone). Along the way, the group is documented by Cressida (Natalie Dormer), the resident director from the Capitol, who fled to District 13 with her camera crew and assistant, Messalla (Evan Ross), to prove that while The Games are now finished, the threat of oppression still permeates the entire country.

While the large appeal of the adventure sci-fi movie’s two predecessors, 2012’s The Hunger Games and last year’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, focused on Katniss and Peeta’s struggle to survive The Games and a society that thrives on power, wealth and strength, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 intriguingly shifted to showcase the rebel leader’s success in finally ending the tyranny of the murderous competition. While the first two installments of the gripping film franchise prospered on the intensity of the tributes’ actions and emotions as they struggled to survive, the second sequel powerfully shifted to emphasize how even the seemingly indestructible rebel leader began to buckle under the pressures of saving the country.

Lawrence grippingly transformed the once undefeatable and determined victor into an emotional victim who’s unable to properly adjust to her new life in District 13. Not only did the Academy Award-winning actress naturally emphasis the internal confusion of how she could successfully adjust to her new life in the military-driven underground city, but also the high expectations President Coin has placed on her to protect the citizens of Panem. The performer also effortlessly embodied the pain and emptiness Katniss is experiencing over losing Peeta to The Capitol, and witnessing his complete change in attitude about The Games during his televised interviews with Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), the Master of ceremonies. While she initially feels as though she and Peeta are merely pawns of their respective leaders after the Quarter Quell, who are being used just to further the rulers’ ideals, Lawrence emotionally transforms Katniss into feeling true sorrow for all those who wrongfully became casualties of war after witnessing the horrors that have been committed across all of Panem for herself.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1’s versatile production designer Phil Messina, who also creatively designed the inventive and lavish locations for the first two entries in the Golden Globe-nominated series, once again created original locations that powerfully represent the ever-changing motives of the rebel leaders and their enemies. Mainly using a well-balanced combination of real locations and digital soundstages for the third entry in the daring series, the designer enthrallingly captured the detailed vision of District 13 that Collins included in her novel.

Messina smartly crafted the district’s underground location after nuclear facilities from the 1960s and 1970s, which powerfully emphasis how long President Coin’s residents have been closed off from the rest of Panem. Not only does the multi-level maze that houses the District’s residents look entirely uniform throughout to encourage their unification, the building grippingly culminates Coin’s Command Center, which holds a mixture of old and new militaristic technology. While The District, which is organized like a military hierarchy, is set up in drastic contrast to The Capitol’s innovative and flashy buildings and mansions, Messina fascinatingly emphasized the stark differences between the two distinct groups of leaders.

The first two installments in The Hunger Games film series inventively captivated viewers’ attention through the flashy sets of The Capitol and the arenas where The Games were set, the inventive outfits Katniss and her fellow tributes wore to garner support from the citizens of Panem and most importantly, the stunts the teenagers utilized while trying to win their freedom in the fierce competition. But with the Quarter Quell effectively ending The Capitol-supported killings, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 powerfully emphasized how even one person can elicit the desire by many to fight for their freedom and rights. Through Lawrence’s powerful portrayal of the fierce and strong Katniss, who quickly learned that she was the one person who could command and positively influence an entire nation, the third installment of the series grippingly emphasizes how even one person can emotionally spark a populations’ desire to improve not only themselves, but their entire society.

Technical: A

Acting: A-

Story: A-

Overall: A-

Written by: Karen Benardello

The Hunger Games Mockingjay - Part 1 Movie Review

By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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