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The Hunger Games Review: Mockingjay Part 1 Soars Despite Naysayers

“When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”
– Thomas Jefferson

Oh, were you disappointed that there were way too few action sequences? There were too many scenes of real dialogue for your liking, and they were actually trying to evoke an emotional response and strengthen the audiences connection with the characters.

Did the story seem far too poignant and even somewhat didactic? Oh dear me, how dare they try something like that?

I feel no pity for you if this is how you felt, because this movie wasn’t meant to be about blood sport.  The whole idea of the film was that they are building towards something very big. This is the calm before the inevitable storm, and in this calmness the characters will find the time for those introspective moments when fear and pain truly take hold.

If you could find nothing to like about this movie don’t claim to be a fan because you have likely missed the point completely. It stands to reason that if the book is split into two movies, and there is a logical progression to be followed in regard to the source material.

There is also a lot to be taken away from this movie thematically such as: government tyranny, the ugliness of war, and issues about the media how it can influence by misleading and poisoning its own viewers. To put it succinctly, this movie is about two propaganda machines hard at work trying to be the one whose message takes root in the minds of the citizens of the districts and the capital of Panem.

The one representing the capital will use Peeta, the golden boy of District 12, to try to convince the populace that the rebels are a radical militant group hellbent on mindless destruction. He will also be used to try to break down Katniss’ resolve…or what little she has left.

The other, based in District 13, will try to capitalize on the popularity The Game’s beloved “Girl on Fire”, Katniss Everdeen, to stoke the flames of revolution in the hearts of the citizens of the remaining districts, and (if possible) sympathizers in the capital.

It seems that as the face of the rebellion, Katniss has instilled courage and hope in citizens, thus leading to uprisings in the some of the districts. So if it helps to keep the revolution moving ever forward, District 13’s President Alma Coin will continue to pipe Katniss laden propaganda over the airwaves.

Of course President Snow will retaliate with broadcasts of Peeta, urging Katniss and the rebels to put an end to the destruction caused by these so-called “radical” elements within the districts.

Are these two factions really so different at their very core?

Will things become truly different should the revolution meet its desired result? Is there anything to say that once the rebels take control of the capital, that corruption and tyranny will not stay under the mantle of a new regime? Katniss is a reluctant heroine, who never wanted ANY of what has come to pass. She made one sacrificial gesture for the sake of saving her sister’s life, and now has the weight of a bloody revolution squarely on her shoulders.

She has been nestled away in the underground bunkers of District 13, with their strict rules.

A way of life she is not accustomed to. Of course the propaganda machine need to keep their figure-head safe so underground she shall remain…until they need her for another “propo”.

Her noble gesture has acted as a catalyst for her to be thrown quite unwillingly into the fray of continually unfolding events that continue to threaten anyone or anything she could care about. Being caught in an emotional game tug-of-war as she is, who knows how much pulling one way or the other she’ll be able to endure before she is completely broken.

The acting, while perhaps not Oscar worthy and at points melodramatic, was still very good.

Jennifer Lawrence’s performance was painted in shades of melancholy, shell-shock, wistful sentimentality , anger, and despair.

She lends credence to the fact that Katniss is somewhat damage goods and continuously suffering pangs of survivors remorse. She has seen and had to do horrifying things. She has allowed herself to care too much only to have that for which she cares for be destroyed and ripped away from her.

Julianne Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman give off this vibe that there is definitely more going on than their characters will admit. There is a suspicious nature behind their actions that bring the true nature of their intentions into question.

Moore may seem even-tempered and driven as President Coin, but there is something manipulative lurking behind her façade.

As Cressida, Natalie Dormer did an impressive job of depicting a determined director whose admiration of the rebellion has led her to flee the capital to make “propos” for the rebels. She effectively conveys a steely and fearless demeanor in the most harrowing of situations to capture the perfect footage. She is a young talent to keep an eye on for certain.

Josh Hutcherson made very good use of the screen time given to him. He was able to characterize the sadness and despair as wells as the physical and psychological decay of his character in a way that was almost painful to bear witness to. Hutcherson was, in the end, able to convincingly project the madness of a person bent and broken to do President Snow’s bidding.

Helming a setup movie of this size is a lofty and, shall we say, arduous task in this fickle movie industry. Personally, I believe that Francis Lawrence did a fantastic job. Having him direct these three films, from Catching Fire through to both Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2, will help to create a necessary continuity in the directorial style.

It will also help to create comfort and consistency for the actors and actresses to help their performances. The performances (Francis) Lawrence was able to get from the cast served to help the audience make real emotional connections with the characters, and it was benefited even more by the fact that this film took more of a dramatic turn than the last two.

This movie served its purpose perfectly. It acts as a bridge between action notes, and going over that bridge you encounter the monumental destruction that has occurred along the way. Not just damage to buildings and structures, but to fragile emotional beings. The Games are finished, an entire district lay in ruins with most of its population dead, and those whom would be sought to restore hope and inspiration to the rebels are themselves broken and weary.

I absolutely do not agree with those who would call this a bad movie and, for better or worse, I cannot wait to see what is at the end of this journey.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]

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