REVIEW: ‘Mockingjay Part One’ lives up to fans’ high expectations

Katie Matthews, Staff Writer

The stress that there are no parking spaces, five minutes to showtime, a race to get to the theatre before all the good seats are gone, a surprisingly short concessions line, some popcorn and a cherry Icee in hand, my mobile ticket at the ready, a room with over 200 people, a few previews that take way too long, the lights dim as everyone draws in a breath filled with anticipation.

Katniss Everdeen’s face appears on the screen.

After one long year of waiting, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part One is finally in theatres, and it does not disappoint long-awaiting fans.

In the movie, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is on a journey to become the Mockingjay or face of the rebellion against the Capitol. She begins in once-thought, demolished District 13 upset about Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) who was captured by the Capitol. She then sets out on a journey to the other Districts to boost morale and shoot commercial-like videos to inspire the rebels. Eventually Katniss demands that Peeta be rescued, but he won’t be saved without a cost.

First of all, this film doesn’t even compare to the others in the series. In The Hunger Games and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the plot goes from pre-games to the games to after the games. Mockingjay has no games to be the centerpiece of the movie. There is, however, a war going on so the elements of fighting and death are still there, but the amount of death and devastation is heightened to a pretty horrifying amount.

The movie is overall heavy and mature because of all of the death, and it was shocking to see all of the carnage. For example, in The Hunger Games, Katniss sings a song to the dying Rue (Amandla Stenberg) about being safe and dreaming, but in Mockingjay, Katniss’s song, “The Hanging Tree”, is about a man who is calling for his lover to join him in death at the hanging tree. Sure, both were about death, but the lyrics to “The Hanging Tree” and haunting tune provide a much more serious and sinister vibe.

The focus is on the death and depression because there isn’t much else to focus on. When it was revealed that the book would be made into two movies, there was a lot of controversy about whether the movie truly needed to be two parts or if it was a plan to make more money off of the popular franchise. After seeing the movie and the heavy focus on the gruesome details, I agree; it was a ploy to get as much money out of the series as possible. They were forced to focus on the gory details because there wasn’t anything else plot-related to focus on giving the film an overall dark and disturbing mood.

It was harder to provide cheerful points in this movie because the plot of the previous movies relied on the pre-games to provide a comic and cheerful vibe to the otherwise gruesome and serious games and after-games. This movie’s only comical points were the few scenes with Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) in them.

Besides providing the scarce comic-relief, Haymitch has a important relationship with Katniss in the novel. This relationship is there in the movie, but in a much more minor role. The filmmakers probably didn’t include this relationship as much because it would distract from what really draws in teens: the Katniss-Peeta love story. Obviously, this love story is important to the plot because without it, there would be no motivation for Katniss to continue to fight President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and the Capitol. The movie had to be Hollywoodized to feature the love story to draw teens in, causing a downplay of all of Katniss’s other relationships especially her relationship with Haymitch.

Other than the Hollywoodization of the relationships, the movie is true to the book. The plot matched, and the characters were portrayed exactly as I had imagined. Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss is visionary perfection. She embodies the look, the attitude, the mannerisms, and the emotion that transforms her into that character flawlessly. Another character that was true to the book was President Coin (Julianne Moore). She was just as unlikeable and type-A as her written character, which helps foreshadow the ending of the book.

One character that was not impressive was Gale (Liam Hemsworth). In the series, Gale is a pretty likeable guy until Mockingjay when the reader starts to suspect that something’s changed about him. Hemsworth does a good job portraying Gale, but he’s not quite on the same level as the other actors/actresses in the film. Once again, Hollywoodization comes into play because Gale’s character – minor in the first two films, but major in Mockingjay – was likely chosen more for his looks than his acting ability. Overall, Hemsworth was pretty decent while the other characters were exceptional.

From character to plot, Mockingjay is an excellent film, and it was the perfect addition to the already successful Hunger Games series. Despite its ghastly scenes of war and overall mature feel, the film is phenomenal in representing the novel in a way that is friendly for teenagers. So, go grab a few friends and head out to the theatre to see Mockingjay. It’ll be well worth the money to see and hear Katniss’s rallying cry: “Fire is catching! And if we burn, you burn with us!”

Rating: 8/10