The Hunger Games has quickly become one of the world’s most popular franchises. Very few people have not read or watched the dystopian story unfold. Therefore, even though the initial popularity and fan frenzy surrounding the series has died out in the last few years, the release of the third movie, Mockingjay Part 1, last month, was still welcomed with anticipation. Stars made famous by the franchise, such as Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth are featured, and the fantasy story takes a suspenseful turn in this movie packed with action and thrill.
To quickly recap the first two movies, the setting is a post apocalyptic world in which selected teenagers from each ‘district’ are forced to fight for survival in a competition created by an abusive government, based in The Capitol. Katniss Everdeen, the heroine, has managed to survive two of these competitions, called ‘the Hunger Games,’ and initiate a revolution against the oppressive Capitol in the process. Mockingjay Part 1 picks up with a distraught Katniss in the underground complex known as District 13. Since the end of the second installment, Catching Fire, Katniss has been healed of all physical wounds and brought to the headquarters of the rebel movement to begin her prep as the Mockingjay, the face of the revolution. However, the fact that Peeta, her only true ally in the Hunger Games, (and love interest!) has been captured by the Capitol and is likely being tortured for rebel involvement holds most of her attention. Her main goal is to protect her family and rescue Peeta.
Although the stars of this series gained their fame from playing the well known and loved roles of Katniss Everdeen, Gale Hawthorne, and Peeta Mellark, Josh Hutcherson (Peeta) was the only standout of the three. Ironically, he probably had the shortest screen time, yet, he played the role of a mentally scarred victim almost perfectly. His transformation from Catching Fire to Mockingjay Pt. 1 is remarkable. Throughout the movie, the changes in the way he delivered his lines portrayed to the audience a new side of his beloved character. On the other hand, the performances of Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth were lacking. Hemsworth’s character, Gale, was dull, forgettable, and altogether boring. Gale is a character the audience may find easy to pity in the books, but instead of using this to his advantage, Hemsworth makes Gale into an easily overlooked character, only notable for his brooding good looks. Lawrence is similarly unspectacular, and often overshadowed by the more inspiring, likeable secondary characters. Something about her performance makes the movie a bit boring, and at times, uncomfortable to watch, especially at tense moments. It is difficult to take the main character seriously at times, which severely hurts a movie that is meant to rely on suspense and tension. Instead, secondary characters in Katniss’ team take the spotlight. Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks are witty and smart as Haymitch and Effie; providing the dry comic relief that such a serious movie demands. Even Natalie Dormer’s cool performance as the minor character, Cressida, outshines Lawrence at times. Additionally, Donald Sutherland’s terrifying power as President Snow is chilling, compelling and entirely unforgettable.
Therefore, the acting might not have always been at it’s best, but in comparison to the first two movies, the score of Mockingjay was outstanding. It is essential to this movie, which is driven by suspense and intrigue. The score successfully adds to the tension, and never distracts from the story. The music is subtle, yet forces viewers to keep their eyes glued to the screen as they lean forward in their seats. The music seems to enhance the actions and emotions of each character perfectly. Katniss’ trademark whistle makes its appearance, as well as the song ‘The Hanging Tree” with lyrics taken from the book. Lawrence redeems herself with this song, which she sings, and which is ultimately one of the highlights of the movie. The haunting lyrics and melody add a whole new depth of emotion and inspiration to the movie.
All in all, Mockingjay Pt. 1 may have been the best movie in the Hunger Games franchise to date. It kept even fans of the book series guessing until the last minute. Finally, for those fans and critics who disapproved of the decision to split the concluding novel into two parts, the movie would most likely have been too rushed if everything was crammed in. For those viewers who have not read the book yet and are wondering what more will happen, know that there is a lot more action left to unfold!