The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 Review

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I am not a fan of young adult novels.
Well, let me take that back. I’m fine with young adult novels in general, but there is a certain… niche, a sub-genre of young adult novels which I believe is over-used, mostly unoriginal, and getting old.

You probably know what I’m talking about.  Teenager lives in post-apocalyptic world with an oppressive government. Teenager finds out they’re the chosen one or whatever term they choose, and works to bring down said government.

The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner are the most popular examples these days, and if you strip away the small amount of original content… they are all basically the same story.

I have not read a single one of those three series’ books. And I have no interest in doing so.
But there’s something about the film of The Hunger Games that I’ve always liked. I’ve seen each one in theaters, after my grandmother pulled me along to the cheap seat showing of the first movie back in 2012.

My classmates had talked excessively about the book at the time, and while I felt no need to read the book, I ended up enjoying the movie greatly despite walking in with low expectations.

This is usually quite the opposite. I am a pretty big Harry Potter fan now, but back when the movies were still going, I was COMPLETELY engulfed in it. I read the series throughout my fifth grade school year, skipping recess just to stay in and read.

So naturally, I wanted to watch the movies, and naturally, I was highly disappointed.
The movies weren’t bad by any means, but being such a large fan, I was able to pick out the discrepancies pretty quickly. (It was DOBBY who gave Harry the Gillyweed in Goblet of Fire so he could grow gills to survive the second task, NOT Neville!)

But perhaps it was the fact that I HADN’T read the books that made the movies so enjoyable. Maybe it was because it had such a great cast, Jennifer Lawrence, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Josh Hutcherson…. I don’t know. All I know is that on a cinematic level, The Hunger Games was a good piece of entertainment that wasn’t just entertaining, but made you think a little.

When it came to the action oriented portion, the actual Hunger Games themselves, I found Catching Fire to be even better in that department.

Then came along Mockingjay. (Part 1, of course, because all young adult movies have to split their final movie into a two parter. It’s become an unspoken rule of the business). I was excited for this movie because at this point, like I said, I had seen each one in the theater and I had become invested in the cinematic characters.
Having not read the books, though, I didn’t know exactly what I was walking into unlike other people.

And what happened in this movie, while it might have set other non-readers like me off due to the lack of action, might have been the best film of the series.

I call this a not review because I’m stating upfront, this is a GREAT film. It did a lot of things I didn’t expect for a movie aimed at the demographic it has.

This movie has a great portrayal of war. It not only incorporates the politics of the situation, but it involves the emotions of the war-torn nation and how it effects the protagonist and the supporting cast. It delves into the dilemma of ‘is any war a good war’, and showed the struggle that the rebellion was going through.

A lot of war movies go for the battlefield approach. Showing war from one angle, which is the actual fighting that might happen. What made this film so good is that it went deeper. For a series about kids murdering each other in an arena for television, it suddenly took a very serious, mature and dark tone. Now don’t get me wrong, the other films were serious, mature, and dark. Like I said, kids murdering each other… that’s dark. And while the previous two films hinted at the political thoughts and reasoning, there was little exposition for the first film and half of the second. This makes up for it.

I read a couple of reviews, and they complained because of the massive amount of exposition, but in my eyes… it made up the lack of it previously, and they do it in a way that keeps you interested and invested.

I particularly enjoyed the way they depicted the making of the propaganda. (Who knew they’d still have Adobe Premiere?) The first scene with Katniss trying to do it the first time was a little humorous, but every moment you could feel the weight of it all. This rebellion against the huge Capitol…  gave me a little bit of a Rebel Alliance/Galactic Empire vibe, I’ll admit. But at times, when plans were going south for the rebellion, you could feel the hopelessness through Katniss. Jennifer Lawrence did a great portrayal of the character as usual, depicting her mental struggles with being a young girl that also has to be the face of a huge rebellion within her country. I don’t know how old Katniss is supposed to be, but a girl that young not only fighting in an arena of other kids, but then fighting against the government in a civil war? I can imagine that would cause a little stress. And she pulls it off wonderfully.

And this goes for all of the other characters shown in District 13. The fear, hopelessness… or perhaps the utter confidence that President Coin has in her actions… (Julianne Moore pulled this off fantastically. The confidence mixing with perhaps a little ruthlessness was a great combination) and President Snow’s cockiness and snide personality.
Everything was played in ample amounts, at the right times, and was done very well.

My main point I am getting with this, is that for a young adult based movie… this film was incredibly mature with it’s portrayal of war.
It also reminded me slightly of Elysium, but I’d have to give the upper hand to Mockingjay here.
I walked out of the theater not only thoroughly entertained and eager for part 2, (another year? Jeez! Deathly Hallows Part 2 came out only a few months after part 1!) but thinking about the consequences of the war in this world and what the outcome would be.
I used to watch it because of the great cast and good action scenes, but this film pulled me in and got me truly interested and invested in the history, the world, the people… it’s weird to say this, but it was probably one of the best war movies I have seen all year.

I’d recommend you go watch it. The $5 – $7 dollars it costs is well worth the movie, which clocks in at over two hours and never over stays its welcome.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, gets an 8.5/10.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 9:55 AM

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