‘Mockingjay’ well done on screen and on page
The movie-goer’s view
Assistant Managing Editor
Even for those who haven’t read the books, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1” is a great movie.
Surely, there is an extra level of depth that accompanies the movie experience if a viewer previously read the book. However, there is a lot through which to dig with the movie as is.
For those who do not know, “The Hunger Games” trilogy focuses on Katniss Everdeen, an adolescent young woman who takes the nation of Panem by storm when she volunteers as tribute for the titular event, an annual battle royale among tributes from each of the nation’s 12 districts.
To avoid heavy spoilers, Katniss’ actions throughout the book and movie series gain her adoration from the non-entitled masses and a spot at the head of potential revolution.
Fair warning – what follows may contain spoilers both minor and major. Read with caution.
“Mockingjay, Part 1” picks up after Katniss and her crew wreak havoc during the 75th Hunger Games depicted in “Catching Fire.” Katniss wakes up in what remains of District 13, the former site of the quelled revolution that started the games.
She meets with former game maker Plutarch Heavensbee and District President Alma Coin and, after heated discussion and much cajoling, agrees to be the symbol of the new revolution – the Mockingjay.
Meanwhile, in the Capitol, President Coriolanus Snow holds other tributes hostage – particularly Peeta Mellark, joint winner of the 74th games and Katniss’ perceived love interest. Snow has used Peeta as the face of his efforts to quell any revolution.
Throughout the movie, the chess match between Snow and the revolution provides an ebb and flow that viewers feel on a cerebral level. When Katniss makes one move, Snow either anticipates and counters it or trips up from the rug pulled out from under him.
Yet, there are also moments in which the back and forth is more visceral. Viewers and on-screen revolutionaries rally around Mockingjay symbols to attempt to dismantle the regime. When the Capitol responds, viewers – on screen and off – feel the pit in their stomachs.
This tug of war between the revolt and the regime provides for a number of intense moments throughout the film, though it takes a bit of build to get there.
The beginning of the film features numerous scenes of Katniss debating with Coin and Heavensbee, as she explores the aftermath of violence in her home district and slowly gets the feel of being the Mockingjay. The scenes are not only emotional exposition, but they are also slowly paced in comparison.
Regardless, Jennifer Lawrence does a fantastic job of capturing the essence of Katniss’ fire against the regime. She shines as a reluctant lead that finds her fuel in the injustices against fellow humans, and her emotions shine through in a number of scenes in which her loved ones are in jeopardy.
The supporting cast also steps up their game throughout the movie. Julianne Moore is a near perfect cast for Coin, while Donald Sutherland evokes everyone’s ire as Snow. Natalie Dormer also did well in the debut of “The Hunger Games” as Cressida, the revolution’s propaganda film director.
Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson and Josh Hutcherson all reprise their roles well. Hutcherson’s performance of a torn and tortured Peeta stands out in a way that hits viewers in the gut.
Visually, the movie is stunning – even in standard movie definitions. The cinematographers excellently capture the ethos of the movie, from Katniss’ first shots as reluctant revolutionary leader to the intense, final scenes with Peeta.
Though the use of shaky-cam can be a bit overwhelming to those not expecting it, the technique works in context of the scenes. The only other complaint involves dizzying shots and overtly dark lighting in a stairwell scene; however, again, the choices work well in context.
The one aspect of the movie that grips the most is the music – particularly the film score. James Newton Howard’s score does a fantastic job of evoking the emotions of scenes both jovial and tragic.
Two tracks from the film’s soundtrack also frame the movie. Lorde’s “Yellow Flicker Beat” gives the credit roll a sort of summative feeling appropriate to the movie. Lawrence’s “The Hanging Tree,” a song from the novel itself, also sends chills worthy of a revolution.
Overall, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1,” may not be a perfect movie or a perfect adaptation of a novel. However, with gripping music, excellent cinematography and fantastic acting from marquee names, the movie is well worth a watch or two.
The reader’s view
Student Life Editor
This review contains film and book spoilers.
“The Hunger Games” trilogy came to life in theatres for the third time on Nov. 21 when “Mockingjay, Part One” was released.
As of Dec. 1, the movie grossed almost 230 million dollars, according to Internet Movie Database; over 1.2 million of that came in during opening weekend.
Internet Move Database users gave the film 7.2 stars out of ten. On Rotten Tomatoes, users rated the first part of the trilogy’s conclusion at 76 percent.
Overall, the film is a success. As far as book adaptations go, the film is successful because it focuses on the main conflict of the growing rebellion throughout the entire two hours.
Additionally, the performances from the cast are impressive. Jenifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Sam Clafin, Julianne Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman all nail it.
One of the most memorable and interesting aspects of the film is Katniss Everdeen’s evolution into the Mockingjay. The scenes in which she interacts with citizens and decides to do her part in the rebellion are poignant and touching.
Audiences around the world likely shed many tears when she walks into the hospital and sees the wounded and dying citizens of District 8. The scene in which Katniss commits to being the Mockingjay, speaking out over the ashes of the hospital after the Capitol bombed it, is chill educing.
Many people have argued that in the first and second films, Peeta stole the show. In this film, Finnick, played by Sam Claflin, is a background character with quite a bit of screen time and a beautiful performance during his main scene.
Perhaps this time it was Finnick who steals the show.
That isn’t to say that Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as Katniss Everdeen is anything less than great, but there is only so much Lawrence can do with a character as poorly written as Katniss. She is not the most likely choice for the protagonist in the books, which translates to some degree to the films.
However, Lawrence improves on the inconsistencies and pointless hesitations of the Katniss Everdeen in print. Peeta’s and Finnick’s stories are much more compelling than Katniss’, in the books and the films.
Despite the film’s length, it is faced-paced and does not drag on. In fact, an audience rarely has time to catch their breath, between all the fighting, violence and tension.
The most remarkable aspect of the film is the number of breathtaking shots. Toward the end of the film, a crew goes to rescue Peeta from the Capitol. As they descend into the building, a beautiful, wide-angle shot shows five people suspended from the ceiling as they climb down.
The camera stays with them for a few extra seconds, which really highlights the amount of danger they are in. That one shot paired with the extra seconds of film time ramp up the tension.
Speaking of tension, “Mockingjay, Part One” does a great job of setting up the tension that will come in Part Two. Book readers know how the story concludes and can only guess that fourth and final film will bring as an adequate finale.
For example, the many shots of the citizens of District 13 who listen to President Coin speak set up the juxtaposition of her leadership versus President Snow’s leadership.
The books effectively send the message that the Capitol might not be the only enemy of peace.
When the District 13 citizens listen attentively to President Coin addressing them, they often look like lemmings or robots. They infrequently become animated, but when they do, they resemble the hungry crowds of the Capitol during the first two films.
The citizens of the Capitol watch as children are put into the arena of the Hunger Games, while the citizens of District 13 watch as President Coin manipulates Katniss, also a child.
This mirroring of images gives viewers the clue that some of the major themes of the novel will translate onto the screen during Part Two.
Overall, as far as adaptations go, the first three films of “The Hunger Games” have done something that adaptations rarely can: improve the books.
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