Heading For A Bigger Quell In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
The second half of The Hunger Games series begins with Mockingjay - Part 1. When the Quarter Quell ends abruptly long before the contest has a winner, the competitors find themselves divided into two factions. Some have been taken two the Capitol in Panem. Others, including Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), have been taken to an undisclosed location. Katniss recovers from injuries suffered at the end of the Quell in a medical facility in the well-hidden District 13, whose president, Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), continues to wage war against Panem President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland). Also there are the Quell gamemaker, Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), as well as Quell contestants Beetee Laiter (Jeffrey Wright) and Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin). In addition, the key members of the District 12 team, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) and Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), have found themselves sequestered in District 13.
The District 13 forces, however, could not rescue either Peeta Melark (Josh Hutcherson) Johanna Mason (Jena Malone), or Annie Cresta (Stef Dawson), who's Finnick's girlfriend. In fact, Peeta is seen with Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) on TV seen throughout the nation. Once recovered from her injuries, President Coin and Plutarch try to persuade the battle-weary Katniss to be their Mockingjay, the symbol of revolution against Snow. At first, she declines, citing the District's failure to rescue Peeta. Plutarch convinces Coin to let Katniss see what has happened in District 12. She agrees, letting Katniss go to her old home with Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), who now fights for District 13, and helped to save Katniss's mother and sister from the virtual destruction she gets to see. That, and assurances Coin won't punish any other Quell contestants who have survived, lead Katniss to accept the role of Mockingjay. Following a suggestion from Haymitch, she starts to visit other districts who have started to fight against Snow, and sees Snow won't relent until no rebels remain. Beetee finds a weakness in Panem security, and exploits it so a team can rescue Peeta and the other Quell survivors.
Mockingjay - Part 1 is a satisfying installment which focuses almost entirely on Katniss. Slowly but surely, she is reunited with everyone who matters to her except the other remaining Quell participants not in District 13. The District 13 residents also come to know that Snow realizes how much they are willing to fight, which Snow intends to finish deciseively. He sends a message about the end of the Quarter Quell, which only strengthens the resolve of Katniss to get back in the fight. Stretching out the third Suzanne Collins book to two movies helps to make Part I feel rather ordinary. The scenario is handled capably by Danny Strong (Lee Daniels' The Butler) and Peter Craig (The Town). Some parts are a bit slow, but director Francis Lawrence compensates with a high level of energy.
Jennifer Lawrence once again does well as Katniss, the reluctant warrior who sees she needs to fight so that she and others might live in a world without Snow. Between skirmishes, she visits devastated areas with a Capitol refugee named Cressida (Natalie Dormer) and her film crew. These unscripted moments provide inspiration to opponents of Snow's regime, and show a person who helps allies and loved ones in her own way. Moore is the franchise's key newcomer as the tough President Coin, who comes to appreciate Katniss for who she is, and not whom Coin wants her to be. Banks provides comic relief as Effie, the image consultant who never imagined she'd find herself living in a place like District 13, where image doesn't matter as much as survival. Hutcherson is good as Peeta, who uses his TV exposure to do something unexpected. The others do fine work, but viewers really don't learn anything new about these characters.
In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1, Katniss Everdeen comes to learn that the fight has grown beyond the Quarter Quell. Players and citizens who don't pay tribute and obedience to the country and their sadistic leader find that their existence might well be in peril. As a result, Katniss, known from the Hunger Games as the "girl on fire," finds the flame that made her determined to survive the competition as she lets Snow and a nation of followers know she has a greater fight than the one televised for all to see. Truth, as hard as that sometimes can be, matters more than being just an image.
On a scale of zero to four stars, I give The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 three stars. No more games for Katniss or Panem.