One of the biggest films of the year from one of the biggest franchises in cinema history is making its way to home entertainment. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is the latest installment of the Hunger Games franchise which finds teenage sacrifices pitted against one another in order for a merciless President to uphold obedience and dominance over districts under his control.
The latest installment picks up at the edge of the seat where Catching Fire left us with Katniss Everdeen (Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence) waking up in District 13 after escaping the third Quarter Quell where she battled deadly mists, killer baboons and fellow previous winners of the Hunger Games. Having been rescued after bringing down the force field over the games with a spear and a bold of lightening, Katniss awakes in an aircraft to learn that a revolution is underway but after finding out that her companion and love interest in the Games, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), has been left behind in the Games, she finds herself full of vengeance and anger.
With the revolution getting closer, Katniss is approached by Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and leader of District 13, President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) about becoming the face of the rebellion.
After visiting the remains of District 12 and seeing what President Snow had done to her former home and to the residents of the small mining district she decides to accept President Coin’s offer and pledges to destroy the Capitol and its tyrannical leader as well as rescue Peeta who has been captured and controlled to oppose the rebellion and his friends in District 13.
Many of the same cast members from the previous two installments find themselves playing pivotal roles in Mockingjay Part 1. Josh Hutcherson delivers a transforming performance in the latest film as the captured and tortured Peeta Mellark; Woody Harrelson returns as the now sober Haymitch Abernathy; Philip Seymour Hoffman delivers a slightly overshadowed performance, and one of his final film appearances, as Plutarch Heavensbee under the command of cast newcomer Julianne Moore who plays District 13’s leader, President Alma Coin; Donald Sutherland picks up his role as the devilish President Coriolanus Snow; Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne who continues to seek the affections of Katniss within the films love triangle and Stanley Tucci as eccentric television personality Caesar Flickerman. Humour is also injected into the film by the brilliant Elizabeth Banks who plays the once very colorful Effie Trinket who is like a fish out of water in the underground settings of the film but who sets out to bring sparkle and glamour to the dark days (and displeasing attire) of the impending revolution with makeshift costumes and notable one-liners.
Unfortunately, despite my excitement in seeing the latest installment I ended up feeling just a little bit underwhelmed. Perhaps if I had read the books before seeing the films I would have gone into Mockingjay Part 1 with more realistic expectations in terms of what to expect from the storyline of this latest film. While the first two films centred heavily on the “Games” themselves, Mockingjay Part 1 was set primarily underground in the bunkers of District 13 and involved much more in depth conversations and plotting storylines which, while they were needed to set up the final chapter of the franchise which is due to be released in 2015, it did feel like a much more politically driven installment and therefore had a more lagging feel to it. Again, this is an opinion from someone who has not read the Hunger Games books so my expectations were admittedly a little unrealistic however in saying this, I was intrigued by the direction the film was taking us and excited to see where it goes in Part 2 which I’m sure is going to be phenomenal as a closing chapter on the franchise. The action scenes, though more sparse than in previous films, were exciting and kept us on the edge of our seats, particularly when the rebellions rescue mission to save Peeta from the Capitol unfolds towards the end of the film. Jennifer Lawrence continues to do a truly exceptional job playing Katniss Everdeen and really outdoes herself in this installment, unleashing contrasting emotions throughout the film with ease and giving a standout performance alongside some of the industry’s most seasoned actors.
While my hopes for a film as exciting and action packed as the first two were slightly dashed, I really did enjoy this latest addition to the Hunger Games franchise however, unlike other franchises such as Harry Potter and Twilight, it is integral to have seen the first two films in order to know exactly what’s going on with this one and who is who or else you will find yourself quickly lost. If you have seen the first two films then you are in for a treat with this latest addition.
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