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Movie Night – 'Mockingjay' fills in middle of 'Hunger Games' trilogy (Dec. 3, 2014 issue)

By Bradley Griffith
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” is the middle child of movies. It’s not the beginning or end of the story. It’s more like the beginning of the end.
The story begins where “Catching Fire” left off, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) was rescued from the 75th Hunger Games after destroying the arena with an electrified arrow. Katniss is transported to District 13, a district thought to be long destroyed by the Capitol. Instead, the resistance went deep underground in District 13 to survive in hiding while training for the revolution.
While Katniss, Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin), and Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) were rescued from the games, fellow contestants Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), Johanna Mason (Jenna Malone), and Annie Cresta (Stef Dawson) were captured by the Capitol. Katniss is consumed with survivor’s guilt. She bemoans the fact that the others, particularly Peeta, were not saved along with her, or maybe even instead of her.
The leaders of the rebellion have a role in mind for Katniss. Plutarch Heavensby (Philip Seymour Hoffman) convinces President Coin (Julianne Moore) to use Katniss as a piece of propaganda. The people of the twelve districts were inspired by Katniss’ act of defiance in shattering the force field at the Hunger Games. With the flight of one arrow, she became a source of inspiration for the repressed masses, a hero for the downtrodden. Plutarch wants Katniss to become a symbol for the revolution, a call to arms, a Mockingjay.
Naturally, Katniss refuses to be their puppet. Katniss has an independent streak, a no-one-is-going-to-tell-me-what-to-do type of stubbornness that could save her life or get her killed. She refuses to perform for the rebellion. After all, they may have saved her life, but they left Peeta behind. After President Coin promises to rescue Peeta and the other tributes left behind at the earliest opportunity Katniss finally agrees to be their Mockingjay.
For Katniss it’s not as easy as just saying yes. She’s not an actor. She can’t perform on command with the type of conviction and passion that is needed while acting in a studio. Since she was rescued and brought to District 13 she had no access to the outside world. In order to provoke the fire within, President Coin decides to take Katniss to the other districts to let her see with her own eyes the death and destruction wrought by the Capitol. Katniss then truly becomes the Mockingjay.
“Mockingjay” is the first Hunger Games movie that does not include an actual Hunger Games in the movie. In order to fully understand the plot and the motivations driving each character you need to watch the first two movies of the Hunger Games franchise. Most of the main characters have backstories that are not explained in “Mockingjay,” not to mention the fact that you need to see the first two movies so you will know what kind of games make up the Hunger Games.
My only real gripe with “Mockingjay” is the lack of action. Most of the movie takes place in the underground bunker of District 13, mostly dealing with the politics and logistics of a revolution. It would have been better with more action and less moping around the underground bunker, but maybe that goes back to the fact that it’s not the beginning or the end of the story.
“Mockingjay” is not about the rebellion, it’s about the rise to rebellion. The actual revolution will come in next year’s final chapter of the saga. Regardless of the fact that “Mockingjay” is the weakest movie of the franchise, it is still a must-see for fans of the genre.
Grade: B
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images, and thematic material.