The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

(M) Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Josh Hutcherson

For those who have not been keeping up with The Hunger Games saga, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has sparked a rebellion in the near-future, among the districts of Panem. That fictitious nation is set on a disastrous course towards civil war against the oppressive Capitol.

Following on from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Katniss, Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and the other rescued Tributes have been taken to District 13, an underground district. Although rumoured to have been destroyed, it has flourished undetected by the watchful eye of the Capitol’s Peacekeeper forces. President Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) devise a plan that will weigh against the propaganda of President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and the Capitol.

After a continued devastation of the districts, a reluctant Katniss is asked to push past the personal horrors of the Hunger Games arena and embrace the role of “Mockingjay”, a symbol for the people’s rebellion. Meanwhile Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) has been captured by the Capitol, forcing our lead heroine to juggle her new role with saving him from the clutches of President Snow. Among all the drama, Katniss continues to contemplate her potential love for Peeta and Gale.

Both the book and movie series have set new industry records and developed the teen-dystopian drama into an outright cultural phenomenon. The third in a four-movie series, Mockingjay —Part 1 affably serves as the bridge to the conclusion of the overall story (Mockingjay — Part 2 will be released in November). Having taken over the series for the second instalment, director Francis Lawrence does a masterful job of keeping the story on the front burner, but at a low boil. We are slowly drawn into the drama. The plot links seamlessly with what happened at the end of the last film, yet manages to keep viewers on their toes with exciting twists. At a macro level, this latest instalment of the Hunger Games saga effectively weighs in on the psychological tension within the battle between good and evil.

The performances by Jennifer Lawrence, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman and Donald Sutherland feel comfortable and familiar, keeping their relational tension intact. Josh Hutcherson makes a significant, but cameo-like appearance, which will hopefully open the door to greater developments in the final chapter. Similarly most other characters are simply window dressing at this point, yet remain valuable building blocks for events to come. Thankfully, Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) are allowed to flourish. They add much-needed humour to what otherwise may be a sombre tale.

There is indeed an element of action in this film, but it seems minimal in comparison to the previous Hunger Games films. Interestingly, the love triangle between the three lead characters is not played up, yet the tension between them is evident and leaves questions unanswered. However, this comes with the territory, and adds to the tension needed to serve up Mockingjay – Part 2.

For the fans of the book series, the filmmakers have honoured the characters and storyline. For fans of the movie series, this portion of the story successfully sets up the final chapter. As a film, it is good, but merely gets the story to the boiling point. Mockingjay: Part 1 succeeds in moving the plot along, but is not satisfying on its own. We will sit at the table waiting for the main course…

This is a film for teens and older, due to mature themes and violence.

What are the bigger questions to consider from this film?

  1. How will the world come to an end? (Matthew, 24:36, Revelation 20:1-15)
  2. Should we rebel against bad leadership? (Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13-17)
  3. How can we overcome trauma? (1 Peter 5:7, Psalm 34:4)

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger

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