Mockingjay Part 1
Rating: PG-13 (Intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images, and thematic material)
Recommended for: Ages 15 to Adult (Really, for teens, it depends on the person and the family, so I recommend parental judgment on this one. Some younger teens can handle it just fine, and some older may still have issues. You can go to PluggedIn for a content overview, though all in all, this one seems to have less content concerns than the previous movie.)
The worldwide phenomenon of The Hunger Games continues to set the world on fire with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, which finds Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in District 13 after she literally shatters the games forever. Under the leadership of Commander Coin (Julianne Moore) and the advice of her trusted friends, Katniss spreads her wings as she fights to save Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and a nation moved by her courage.
I know the premise of the Hunger Games stories makes it controversial. I like them, so let me tell you why.
1. I'm a sucker for an evil government story. Yeah, growing up in politics has had its effects. And really, it's a lot more about fighting back against an evil government than it is about kids killing kids. That is never once condoned, and is one of the things they want to stop.
2. It alerts me to the direction America is headed and motivates me to do something about it. This is true for basically every dystopian I've read.
3. It doesn't sugarcoat the consequences of killing and war. Too many stories do, and don't get condemned for it. The Hunger Games stories actually got me to feel sorry for the stormtrooper that Luke Skywalker causes to slam into a tree and explode in Return of the Jedi. I'm serious. Knowing stormtrooper backstory, that stormtrooper had no more choice in fighting for the Emperor than the tributes do in going into the Arena. So it's made me more sensitive to violence rather than less.
4. Peeta Mellark. Sorry, I had to mention him. He's just so sweet and good, and then...spoilers.
So, now onto a more literary type analysis of the third movie in the series: Mockingjay Part 1.
This was a well made movie. Now there were a small handful of instances of shaky cam that bugged me on a movie theater screen, but I should be able to handle it on a television. They didn't use it anywhere near as much as in the first film, which was good. It was a good and faithful adaptation, and, for splitting the book in half, it didn't seem too much like half a book. The special effects all seemed realistic, and the acting was really good. I mean, Jennifer Lawrence can portray a character that can't act at all while remaining fully in character for the character she is playing. If that jumble makes any sense. If you know the story, you can probably sort it out. :) And Josh Hutcherson has shown another side of his acting abilities. He didn't get much screen time, but...Peeta...
The real worldbuilding credit goes to Suzanne Collins, of course. It's horrible, but brilliant and amazing, but horrible. I mean, who would really want to live in Panem? Um, no one. But it's such a perfect blend of futuristic technology and historical periods and modern times. It feels so real. Maybe it's because America seems to be headed in a similar direction. And it's awful. Panem is an awful place. Which is why they're kind of starting a war. I'm really in awe of her worldbuilding abilities. It was well portrayed on screen as well. Of course, things are very different now. The Capitol keeps bombing everything, so basically everything is a pile of rubble. It's pretty terrible. My only quibble is that they didn't really show what District 13 is actually like. It seems better than it was in the book. It was really very controlled and dictatorial, but it didn't seem as bad in the movie.
There's a reason my friend leaned over to ask me if I was crying yet partway through the movie. The second part is going to be sadder, I'm pretty sure of this for multiple reasons, but there isn't an installment in the series that isn't sad. Like, beyond "happy for deep people" sad. It's been a while since I read straight through the first half of the book, but it was a faithful adaptation. It centers on Katniss's decision to be the Mockingjay, basically the figurehead for the rebellion. Also, there's the matter of Peeta, Annie, and Johannah's imprisonment by the Capitol. It was definitely action packed, and, well, a war is starting. The Capitol is showing more than ever just how ruthless they can be, and the rebellion is really starting. The cliffhanger isn't quite as bad as it would have been if they'd stopped it about five minutes or so sooner, like I thought they would have, they chose to explain a few things before cutting, but still, the last shot of the film is terrible. It did at times feel a slight bit like filler, but that may be because Peeta was barely in it, and because things weren't as sped up and condensed as they were for the previous two films.
Character Development: 5/5
Now, we had friends over for a movie marathon before going to the theater together, so I'm seeing this all more as a whole than just a part. The characters progress as one would expect them to in their circumstances. Katniss is being torn apart, but just wait for the next movie. I actually liked Gale better this time around than I ever have before, but I think that's mostly because I now think of him as Kaden Altair. Prim is growing up and going to be trained as a doctor, but she's still the same Prim who loves a raggedy old mean cat. It was around this point in the book that I started to like Finnick. Because you finally find out who he truly is. I won't talk about Peeta because of spoilers and because it would be awful anyway. He's my favorite character, let's just say that.
I know this is a really long review, but I have a lot to say and, to be honest, this review is a lot easier to write than Time Captives. The Hunger Games trilogy (or series, if we're talking movies) isn't for everyone, but there are valuable things to be learned from it. Like that it's not okay to kill people. It destroys you. That sometimes it is necessary to go to war, but war is still in itself not a good thing. Drowning yourself in alcohol won't ever get rid of your problems, Haymitch, as much as you may try, and never actually give it up. It's hard to rebuild from total destruction of things physical and emotional, and things will never be the same, but it can be done. And don't give up on people. Your first impression may be wrong, or they may not have realized that they hurt you, or they could have been tortured beyond repair and need you to help them begin to heal. And that's what I think of The Hunger Games and Mockingjay Part 1.