‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1’ (2014) Review

Mockingjay – Part 1

With the success of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), it was then announced that Mockingjay would get split into two parts, with being both filmed back-to-back and that Francis Lawrence was set to return to direct both installments with Jennifer Lawrence returning once again as the beloved protagonist of Katniss Everdeen from District 12.

The story picks up about two weeks after Katniss had been lifted out of the arena at the end of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), with her then waking up in District 13. Unbeknownst to Katniss, there was a plan that was being made in secret behind her back amongst the rebels that the beginnings of an uprising was about to begin, a plan that she was not made aware of before being sent back into the arena. Upon awakening, she asks why they weren’t in District 12, she is then met with some unfortune news. Due to the impending rebellion against the Capitol, the order went out that the entire district was to be bombed. There is no District 12.

District 13 is a military base, they were abandoned by the Capitol 75 years ago after their attempt at an uprising and forced to fend for themselves. They live miles underground, they all wear the exact same clothes and and are under a very strict schedule. They have been biding their time for years for the perfect moment to reveal themselves and after witnessing Katniss’ actions with the Nightlock during her first time in the arena, they are determined to recruit her as the Mockingjay to lead their cause … the uprising has begun.

Plot Summary

District 13 is under the leadership of President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), together with the help of Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), they head game maker who turned out to be apart of the rebel cause, they have constructed a plan to rally the rebels in the other districts to fight against the Capitol. That plan has to do with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) to become the face of the rebellion and to become the “Mockingjay”.

… but Katniss is reluctant, she doesn’t know these people and because of her standoff-ish nature, she doesn’t trust them either. They then realize that instead of forcing her to do something that they doesn’t have any interest in doing, they need to find a way to gain her trust. Katniss is then given the opportunity to visit District 12, which she accepts and as she stumbles through the rubble of her former home, what she finds there is truly devastating.

Katniss eventually agrees to be the “Mockingjay” and together with Plutarch, they put together their own promotional propaganda video — “propos” as he likes to call them, —  for District 13 to broadcast to the rebels in the other districts. This is something that Katniss fails to impress everybody with, as she doesn’t exactly have a way with words.

After a disastrous performance in the studio, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) asks what could’ve possibly gone wrong and after Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) gives a few examples of what makes Katniss so inspirational, they decide that instead of trying to fake being a revolutionary in the studio, Katniss should instead get put on the front lines.

She is then set up with a strike team, led by Boggs (Mahershala Ali) as well as accompanied by Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), they proceed to visit District 8. Katniss is also introduced to a girl named Cressida (Natalie Dormer). Along with her camera crew, they are responsible for filming Katniss as she fights the Capitol’s forces as they proceed to bomb a hospital, to which Katniss then gives one of the most inspirational speeches that she has ever given. This footage is later put together and used as for Plutarch’s “propos”.

While visiting a hospital in District 8, the people immediately recognize her, — and it was in that moment that Katniss finally realized that the people of Panem had long decided to put their faith in her as the symbol of the Mockingjay. Seeing these wounded people and being on the front lines then inspired Katniss to accept that she would take on the responsibilities as the “Mockingjay”, and she would becoming the face of the rebellion.

There are multiple points in time when we see Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) give speeches on the screens from the Capitol. At first he is looking healthy but in later appearances, he is looking gaunt and frail. At one point, Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) is able to interrupt the Capitol’s broadcast with a “propos” of Katniss, which phases Peeta as he recognizes her. In a moment of desperation, Peeta blurts out that the Capitol will attack District 13. Coin immediately sounds the alarm and everybody rushes down to the lower levels while the sounds of bombs go off above them. When Katniss meets up with her mother, Prim (Willow Shields) is missing — she has gone back for her cat.

Knowing that Katniss won’t be able to fulfill her duties as the Mockingjay while Peeta is still being held captive at the Capitol, Coin institutes a strike team to go to and rescue him and the other victors. Upon their return to District 13, Gale is suspicious of how easy to was for them to infiltrate and escape from the Capitol. With him then going so far as to assume that to have both Katniss and Peeta finally reunite was President Snow’s real plan all along.

Katniss is still confused whether she has feels for either Gale or Peeta but she is grateful to Gale for going and rescuing Peeta. After all of these weeks apart since getting separated in the arena, Katniss is hopeful that their reunion will be a happy one. Only to find out that the man who she once knew, who she fell in love with, isn’t the same one who has returned.

Katniss Everdeen

Most of what we know of Katniss, she is a very solitary character. She like to go off into the woods alone, either to hunt or forage for food. Other than Gale, she doesn’t have too many friends who she feel save enough to put her trust in. This is very different to how she is then forced to live while in District 13. She is now forced to live underground and is constantly surrounded by a lot of people which makes her feel even more alone than she already does.

Jennifer Lawrence was coming off of a career high in between her time filming both of the Mockingjay sequels. She has just won best Oscar for her performance in Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) would release that following fall, solidifying her status as a movie star. She would then het sought after by big name directors, such as David O. Russell, who cast her cast her in American Hustle (2013). She was also returned as Mystique in the 20th Century Fox‘s X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), which would release a few months prior to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014).

With being in two big franchises at the same time, coupled with the various other projects, it almost felt as if Jennifer Lawrence was starting to become a little over exposed. After her Oscar win, she would start to get some power behind the scenes. With her role of Mystique, she would no longer be in full make-up below the neckline and in both Mockingjay movies, instead of dying her hair like she had in the previous installments, she instead wore a wig.

But Jennifer Lawrence would prove that her Oscar win wasn’t just a fluke when she returned to her role as Katniss Everdeen, as she continued to put on a solid performance of the worn torn solider.

Even though the character of Katniss Everdeen was still very much reluctant to take on the responsibilities of the “Mockingjay”,  Jennifer Lawrence continued to show the audience why she was the right choice to have been cast as the girl who would rise up from District 12 into becoming a leader who the rebels of Panem would all look toward as a source of inspiration in the war against President Snow in the Capitol.

It’s important to note that Katniss is only 17 years old and this is a huge responsibility for a teenager to have. There is a lot of pressure on her from almost everybody to keep the fire going so that there can hopefully one day be a better future. But we have to remember how and why Katniss was put in this position in the first place. All she ever wanted to do was to save the life of her little sister Prim. She never asked to be put in this position. She never asked to be the Mockingjay … and it’s a shame that this girl, who has suddenly become this powerful revolutionary is nothing more than a piece that is being used in another’s game.

The Mockingjay

Now is the time for Katniss to finally become the Mockingjay, not only as the symbol of the rebellion but the face of the rebellion as well. Even though we are in the third movie, we are still very much in the refusal of the call when it comes to The Heroes Journey. Katniss is still doubtful that she will be able to pull this off as it has been established that she isn’t very likable and Peeta is the one who has the silver tongue is much better with using his words.

After she agrees to be the Mockingjay, they Even though Jennifer Lawrence is a great actress, Katniss is a terrible one and she is incapable of faking an act, and more importantly emotion, on the spot. Haymitch insists that the only way to get Katniss is be inspirational is to send her out into the field where the action is. They take her to District 8 where she and Gale fight off some of the Capitol’s force, but only after they have bombed a hospital.

As Katniss has now been able to witness what the Capitol is capable of, she gives one of the most inspirational speeches while being engulfed in the wreckage. A speech that she would never be able to give in a studio, which is then used by District 13 as one of their own sources of propaganda against the Capitol, which then inspires the rebels to continuing fighting.

Differences From the Book

There is actually a lot that has been cut from the Mockingjay book and there is a lot that got significantly changed for the movie. I’m not even going to give any examples, that’s how much ended up getting changed. However, I would also go so far as to say that these changes were necessary. With either minor characters having already been removed from the movies or plot points getting shortened, they had to rely on and work with what had already been setup as there was so much that had gotten cut out from the two previous books that it would be impossible to have Mockingjay be a completely faithful adaption.

As with the previous two movies, there was a lot of time given to flesh out both the characters of Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), so they were also forced to do the same with President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore). Coin is a big part of the book but she doesn’t actually appear in the book too often, and those who have read the book know that they are told in first person from Katniss’ point of view so Coin was given a lot of character development and scenes of her own during the times when she and Katniss weren’t in the same room together. Again, this was another good change to the book for the movies, we get to know who Coin is, how strong of a character she is and during the point in time when District 13 is getting bombed by the Capitol, they are able to prove to the audience why she is the one who has been in charge of District 13 this whole time.

One of the more significant changes that came in film was the inclusion of Effie Trinket, who replaced the character of Fulvia Cardew from the books. Fulvia was an assistant to Plutarch Heavensbee, but the introduction of so many new characters already, it would’ve been a shame to not include Elizabeth Banks in some way and it made sense for her to take upon a few roles that other minors characters who had already been cut from the films.

I can’t help but reiterate what I have been saying about how everything that is important still happens in the movie but that it happens in a very different way than it does in the book. Either by getting extended or has been completely recreated in a new way, it’s all still there in one way or another. Mockingjay is the weakest installment of the trilogy but if you have already read the previous two, there is no reason not to go ahead and read the third.

Final Thoughts

When it was announced that Mockingjay was going to be split into two parts, I was a little skeptical. I decided to read the books after the release of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2014), but by the time The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014) came out, I had kind of forgotten what had happened. Making a 3-hour movie back in 2013 wasn’t the norm that it is now, so dividing both Part 1 and Part 2 into two 2-hour movies … maybe it could work.

It was obvious that The Hunger Games was riding the success that both Harry Potter and Twilight had before it and since both of those franchises had gotten a double entry for their final installments, I guess it only made sense for Mockingjay to also follow suit. However, since Mockingjay is arguably the weakest entry to The Hunger Games book series, — and since there had already been a lot that had gotten cut out from the books for both The Hunger Games (2012) and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), — it didn’t feel like it was necessary, nor did it feel that there would be enough content that could be lifted from the books in order for a double entry to feel truly justified.

If you have seen The Hunger Games (2012) and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), then you have already seen the best that this franchise has to offer as the next two movies aren’t exactly a significant step down but they don’t reach the same high as the previous two. The one saving grace they have is that they were filmed at the same time and much like the final book, they are the franchises’ weaker entries but I still feel they are both worth watching.