We’re out of the arena and into the fire of revolution and MJP1 makes every effort to capture the darkness of war. Make no mistake, this is a film about war: What does war look like? What do the goals look like? There is a war in Panem and a war in Katniss.
Katniss awakes in the underground, dimly lit, uniformity of District 13. This district may have everything 12 didn’t; food, actual hospitals, freedom from peacekeepers, but it has come a high cost. For District 13, the war never truly ended and now with The Mockingjay in their lair, they’re determined to make the most of the spark Katniss ignited when she blew the forcefield away. Katniss is the face of the revolution and District 13’s President Coin plains to use that image to unite the districts. Katniss, however, isn’t sold on this idea.
Katniss’ focus is still confined to the welfare of Peeta. After making a deal with Haymitch to save Peeta, he was left in the arena by the rebellion and this consumes her waking thoughts. When Katniss is asleep, she has horrible flashbacks. She may look healed, but the scars of PTSD run deep through all the victors.
When it was revealed that Mockingjay would be split into two films, many wondered if there was truly enough content to justify the duology. However, one must also consider that the entire trilogy is told solely from the perspective of Katniss. While Collins’ shows a true mastery with the first person perspective, we lose much of what is happening in the wider world of Panem; this is wear the movie thrills. We’re included on everything from the uprisings in districts to President Snow meeting with his media team to edit propaganda is and a tense scene that leads up to the big reveal in the film (where you could tell who the non-readers were by the SHRIEKS of shock!).
If book readers enjoyed Catching Fire (as much as I did) as one of the best translations from page to screen in recent memory, then you’ll just as pleased here. Director Francis Lawrence does not skimp on this film. This is a very faithful, meticulous, and serious treatment of the original work. Every line, setting, and scene that may have pulled at your heart strings or punched in the gut is here. That is not to say there aren’t changes made.
Cinna’s style team has been swapped out for Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks). While it does mean we miss out on learning what happens to food hoarders in District 13, this change allows to delight in Elizabeth Banks’ incredible performance. Effie not only brings some much needed levity, but also develops as character.
This cast if phenomenally strong. Julianne Moore is great as the distant, restricted, and calculated President Coin and Philip Seymour Hoffman manages to keep his game maker flair as Plutarch Heavensbee. It could almost go without saying, but it won’t--that the trio--Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth all give excellent performances.
Lawrence does an amazing job at portraying the fragility of Katniss’ psyche. She spends a lot of time shaking and crying, but she stills pull through to get things done. Hemsworth stands on his own as Gale grows in strength as a bloodthirsty rebel ready for revenge.
MJP1 does suffer from a few pacing missteps. Some scenes linger a little too long while you wish others would slow down for fuller effect (Finnick’s confession in particular). I wish the film had touched on that even though District 13 welcomed the District 12 refugees, they’re not saviors.
There are politics, ulterior motives, and cruelty throughout the leadership in District 13 that makes it hard to trust them implicitly. For all their emphasis on equality and sharing, it is not out of compassion. Also not explored is the way Katniss feel ambivalent and sometimes disgust with being The Mockingjay and what goes into it. How at times she feels just as much a pawn here as she had in the games.
Mockingjay Part 1 is a very worthy successor to Catching Fire. So many of the layered themes explored within this fiction reflect many conflicts happening in our real world. Make sure you stay after the final movie credits for a Part 2 teaser!