Movie Review – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I

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MV5BMTcxNDI2NDAzNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODM3MTc2MjE@._V1_SX214_AL_“If we burn, you burn with us.”

The Hunger Games” franchise has been a fierce success, both from the critics’ and public’s side.  Since it premiered, there have been similar sci-fi YA adaptations; “Enders’ Game,” “Divergent,” “The Giver” and “The Maze Runner.”  I greatly enjoyed every single one of them, but “The Hunger Games” reigns supreme.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” was not only a game-changer; it shattered everything.  Everything that ace-archer Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, “The American Hustle,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “X-Men: First Class,” Silver Linings Playbook”) knew, what went on behind the scenes and right under her nose, what she became and what she meant to the people in the downtrodden districts of Panem.  When her arrow disabled the forcefield and obliterated the inhumane game, Katniss unwittingly transformed into a mockingjay, a beacon of belief and hope, inciting the uprising against the cruel Capitol regime.

Rescued and safely ensconced in the underground base of district 13, Katniss is reunited with her childhood friend, Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), mother (Paula Malcomson) and sister (Willow Shields).  She finds herself in a secret, militarized society led by President Coin (Julianne Moore), who expects her to be the face of their cause.  Katniss doesn’t agree right away, as her main intention is to save Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), her loved one, captured by the Capitol.  She changes her mind after finding her homebase, district 12, charred and ruined, filled with smokes and skulls.

Working together with strategist Plutarch Heavensbee (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Ides of March”), the plan is to develop a series of propagandas, broadcasted to all the districts.  People need to see that the mockingjay is alive and well, ready to lead.  While the concept is easy to understand, Katniss can’t act in front the camera and doesn’t do green screen.  It’s finally decided that she goes into the field and gets filmed live by a film crew (led by Natalie Dormer).

A visit to a hospital filled with the wounded ends in a tragedy when President Snow (Donald Sutherland, “The Mechanic”) orders an air strike.  It’s the moment that everyone’s looking for, anguished Katniss speaks from the heart and fights back, uniting the people to rise and rebel.  She makes a deal with President Coin to have Peeta and other tributes rescued from the Capitol.

Peeta appears in a series of television appearances, answering interview questions from returning host Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci, “Captain America: The First Avenger”).  Peeta looks unharmed, physically, but it’s clear that he’s not the man he used to be.  He delivers messages that are favorable to the Capitol.

From an action standpoint, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I” is lacking compared to its predecessors.  But don’t mistake the sparse action beats as lacking elsewhere.  While the filmmakers’ decision to split Suzanne Collins’ last book into two installments may have slowed down the story’s progression, the film is equally suspenseful, and emotional, as the previous movie.  The stakes remain sky-high and you’ve become so incredibly invested in the characters that it guts you to see the state they are in.

The entire cast is terrific, including returning supporting actors Elizabeth Banks (Eefie Trinket) and Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy), and a nod to Hutcherson for his deepening range.  But it’s Lawrence who fires all cylinders here, carrying the entire movie with a lightning bolt of emotions.

The game was an all-encompassing piece in the earlier installments.  However, its absence here doesn’t make “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I” a lesser film.  As a matter of fact, the story, which is now more of a political, war drama is refreshingly different.  It’s filled with adverse repercussions, political weapons, moving speeches, jammed communications, a covert flyover to the enemy zone and a tense stealth raid.

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I” burns bright and explosively lays the groundwork for the revolution of all time, fueling the anticipation for an extraordinary endgame.  ‘Mockingjay Part II’  is set to release on November 20, 2015.

Copyright (c) 2014. Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a film columnist and has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: She can be reached at

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic ( She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at [email protected].

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