The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 Review
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The first two films in the Hunger Games franchise (The Hunger Games and Catching Fire) told the story of a pair of unlikely young heroes who inspired a troubled nation with their dedication and bravery. Now, in the third film, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, the franchise takes a dark turn, shifting the focus to the country’s growing unrest.

Mockingjay – Part 1 takes the Hunger Games story in a new direction. After bringing an end to Panem’s deadly games, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself living underground in District 13, where a rebellion is building against President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and the Capitol.

Katniss reluctantly agrees to act as the Mockingjay—the symbol of the revolution. But as she helps the leaders of District 13 produce propaganda videos to help them promote the rebellion, the Capitol retaliates by using Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) against them.

If you haven’t read the book, you might not be prepared for the major changes that take place in the third installment of this popular franchise. While the first two films focused on the games themselves—with tributes fighting each other in a massive arena—the third film turns its focus on the growing rebellion.

Gone are the pageantry and flair of the earlier films; they’re replaced by drab costumes and growing dread. And instead of the hand-to-hand combat of the earlier films, Mockingjay’s battles are more PR-related. Though there are a few actual attacks, they’re few and far between as President Snow and District 13’s President Coin (Julianne Moore) volley propaganda videos instead of bombs. It’s a kind of passive-aggressive game of manipulation and mind control, making the film more suspenseful than action-packed.

Fortunately, while the franchise takes a darker, more dramatic turn, the characters continue to carry the story. Lawrence once again makes a strong lead as Katniss. Once just an average girl from a below-average district, she finds herself in the middle of the tension between the capitol and the rebellion, forced to take a stand while fearing the consequences. Though her greatest ally—Liam Hemsworth’s Gale—is a bit bland, she’s also supported by fellow victor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), whose limited screen time is nonetheless memorable. And she’s joined by her former Hunger Games escort, Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), who seems to symbolize the film’s heavier tone. Stripped of the colorful wigs and outrageous costumes that she once wore in the Capitol, she struggles to maintain the same attitude in a jumpsuit and headscarf, just as the franchise is forced to adjust to this drastic change in tone.

Mockingjay – Part 1 may not have the same action and fanfare as its predecessors, but it manages to take a darker and less dynamic story and give it the drama and suspense needed to keep audiences engaged. It’s a different Hunger Games film, but fans won’t be disappointed.

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