The third installment of The Hunger Games saga has arrived, and without having any prior knowledge of the Suzanne Collins books, it’s the darkest and most relevant film (and story) so far that can be enjoyed without any insight (or interest) in the killing games. It’s also boosted again by the striking and formidable figure of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, who combines beauty and vulnerability with stiff resolve, signifying the ultimate survivour character.
In Part 3 (Mockingjay – Part I), Katniss wakes up in the fortified bunker that is District 13, without fellow Hunger Games contestant Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), but with her mother and sister safely nearby. She is told they could only save one after she literally shatters the Games virtual environment at the end of the second film with one arrow from her bow.
District 13’s President Coin (Julianne Moore) wants Katniss to be reborn as the revolution’s figurehead, used as their propaganda weapon against the wealthy oppressor, the Capitol. But Katniss’s only thought is rescuing Peeta who is currently being held by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and used in his mission to crush the rebellion once and for all. It’s only after seeing the devastation of District 12 with her very own eyes that Katniss answers her call of duty.
It’s a case of who’s creating the best video propaganda in the third film as both Katniss and Peeta are used as political pawns. It’s a fascinating premise – and ironically timely in the real world, what with the extremes of the deadly Islamic State video campaign on the one hand, and the impact of reality TV stars on the other. This film certainly plays more to our raw emotions while sounding the rally cry for revolution to come that’s rapidly gathering pace.
In fact, Mockingjay – Part I will appeal to any ‘underdog’ out there, any sci-fi fan, complete with bunker claustrophobia that is life in a futuristic world on the brink of change. Director Francis Lawrence keeps things tense and eventful as the threat comes from all angles – the most terrifying being on a screen. Part I is actually not as rich in detail as the previous two films, but it delivers the greatest impact so far.
Lawrence will forever be Katniss, a role she has made her own. Like her character in this film, she is the franchise’s figurehead and safe bet for box office success. Hutcherson gets the short straw this time, with sporadic screen time (literally), but still manages to portray Peeta’s oppression, the result of which comes out in full force at the end.
Most of the old faces return, including the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as shady Plutarch and comedic value from a ‘dry’ Haymitch (Woody Harrelson). By far the most enjoyable is Elizabeth Banks as Effie, Katniss’s personal stylist who tries to bring a bit of ‘prison chic’ to the grey attire of District 13 with amusing results. Even Gale gets more action this time (sadly, not from Katniss), with little brother of Chris and Luke, Liam Hemsworth showing off his action-hero skills.
Moore’s Coin is definitely an intriguing character in the making, having shown her leadership talent in this, we have yet to see much of her true colours. Indeed, those familiar with the book will not get a sense of the sinister side of District 13 as this is played down to bump up the revolution rally cry and get us firmly on the side of the oppressed. It will be interesting to see how this is interrupted in Part II, whether Coin and co’s true motivations are revealed. At the moment, it’s still enigmatic Snow/Sutherland’s evil verses the suburbs’ virtue.
Like any film in a saga, it needs to be relayed to move on to the finale of the story. However, far from just joining the dots, Mockingjay – Part I is an entertaining standalone film that may attract new audiences of all ages to the cinema for the values it stands for. If nothing else, Lawrence dons the sexiest Katniss outfit yet! A shameful plug, but she is the poster girl in all senses.
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