Friday, November 21, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 summary and review

 by Melissa Scott

For me, Suzanne Collins’ dystopian trilogy The Hunger Games ended with disappointment. The first two novels provided a satisfying mix of corrupt oppression, heroic defiance, and of course, a YA romance. The action-packed Hunger Games themselves drove the action of the books. But the third book, Mockingjay, lost the story-line thrill. Mockingjay focused entirely on a full-blown war against a futuristic government. The Games get left behind as a more serious political movement dominated the plot. The ever-increasing war-based violence only confused me, as I lost track of which characters died, which ones were enemies, and which ones swapped loyalties. With no room for romance in the novel, and a seemingly never-ending battle story, my emotional investment vanished. Relief only came once I reached the end—simply because it was finally over.

I did not expect Mockingjay’s movie adaption to impress, unless, of course, it deviated considerably from the book. In fact, I hoped it would. Not to mention the commercial irritation of splitting the already dull story into two separate films. But after two-part Harry Potter, Twilight, and even The Hobbit installments, the news of a splitting of the Hunger Games did not come as a shock. So I braced myself for what I imagined would be a cringe-worthy movie. Yet, Mockingjay Part 1 delivered with surprising fulfillment. It drew emotional appeal and sufficient thrill of action, and dispensed poignant and fervent acting. Even more surprisingly, it followed Collins’ book almost impeccably.

The movie picked up right where Catching Fire left off. A traumatized Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) remained trapped and buried deep under the militarized barracks and bunkers of a previously “non-existent” District 13. Under strict control of the steely President Coin (Julianne Moore), and the clever but weary Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Katniss initially resists but eventually assumed a role as the face of the new rebellion. The rebellion leaders forced Katniss to act as their propaganda vehicle—a constant theme of the movie. Both the sinister President Snow (Donald Sutherland), with his governing Capitol and the District 13 rebels, fight not only a militaristic war, but one of public fa├žade and manipulation in order to sway opinions. Of course, Katniss fumbled at first with this campaigning act of revolution. But once placed out in the battlefield, amidst the devastation caused by the Capitol, she successfully launched into a stirring fit of anger—in my opinion, Jennifer Lawrence’s best performance of the movie.

Peeta Mellark, (Josh Hutcherson), one of Katniss’s love interests, remained held prisoner by the Capitol, and also thrown into the media battle. Forced to appear onscreen, to deter Katniss and the rebels in their advancements, he caused recurring conflict for Katniss, as she battled between choosing her love for him and her passion for the resistance. Meanwhile, the fiery Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) seized notable attention for the first time in the series (usually Peeta dominates the leading male role). Training and militarization suited him well; he emanated authority and respect in every scene. Despite showing jealousy and sourness towards Peeta in previous movies (his competitor for Katniss’ affection), here Gale assumed a much more mature position as a rebel leader. He even volunteered first to participate in Peeta’s rescue mission.

Admittedly, much of the movie surged through intense warfare and bombing scenes (like the book). However, these battle sequences worked effectively for the movie. Many scenes showed the other districts of Panem (a futuristic renaming of North America), fighting back against the government. The spark of Katniss’s revolution “caught fire,” and while these scenes may have been a little exaggerated and repetitive—probably to simply extend the time of Part 1—they nevertheless fastened feelings of fierce pride and sympathy for the revolutionary cause. 

Finally, the movie culminated with Peeta’s rescue mission from the Capitol. Peeta’s condition worsened physically with every appearance—directly affecting Katniss’s mental stability. District 13 leaders finally realized his well-being acted as the greatest weapon against Katniss, and the rebellion, since Katniss’s love and worry for him influenced her actions on the battlefield. After a terrifyingly suspenseful scene of the rescue, where it seemed Katniss lost both Peeta and Gale, the two finally made it back to District 13 unharmed. However, Gale warned Katniss that President Snow could easily have killed them, but instead let their rescue team go freely. The reason for this became clear, however, once Katniss reunited with Peeta for the first time. Peeta attacked Katniss with a ferocity never before associated with his gentle character, nearly choking her to death. The movie ended with Katniss’s horrific realization that the Capitol did more than just torture Peeta. They rewired his brain and memories in order to pit him against her with a murderous hatred. The final scene showed him strapped to a hospital bed, with his face taut from unrelenting screams.

The movie exceeded my expectations overwhelmingly. Could the battle scenes be a bit tighter? Probably. Would the movie be better as a single installment, rather than a clumsy half-slice? Definitely. But even with these drawbacks, Mockingjay Part 1 reigns as the best of The Hunger Games movie trilogy so far.


  1. I didn't see the movie because I was disappointed with the book.
    Maybe it's worth a look now.


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