The underlying theme of the Hunger Games series has always been revolution. Though the story focused on Katniss and her relationships, the mundane lives of the frightened citizens in the various districts, and the sacrificial games which have kept them in line for 75 years, there was just enough underlying tension to convince the viewer that a larger conflict was brewing (and also the fact that most post-apocalyptic, dystopian films have that underlying theme).
Part one of Mockingjay brings the revolution to the forefront. Now don’t be fooled by this sudden realization to think it means actual battles between the two sides. Yes, there is plenty of conflict, but the violence is more like alternating acts of terror. And the central figures in this unrest are Katniss representing District 13 (the location of the Rebels) and Peeta representing the Capital.
Recall at the end of “Catching Fire,” the rebels broke into the games and rescued Katniss and a number of her friends. But Peeta was not one of those friends. He is now in the capital and spends much of the movie doing interviews condemning the rebels. Meanwhile, Katniss, with the urging of Plutarch Heavensbee (RIP Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and President Coin (the leader of the District 13 rebels played by Julianne Moore, who does a fantastic job in the role), is being molded to become the Mockingjay, the central figure being used by the rebels to rally the rest of PANAM against the capital. But of course, Katniss (like with everything) does not willingly accept the job. It becomes obvious early on in the film that she will accept the role. And that role, like everything else Katniss has endured since volunteering as tribute back in the first movie, will come with much emotional angst and threats to her loved ones. But while some elements of the movie are predictable, it is still an enjoyable ride, even if that ride is a somewhat more mellow than most movies in the same genre.
And I do not consider the mellow nature of the beginning of this final chapter in the Hunger Games series to be a bad thing. In an age where movies of this kind rely on CGI/special effects to entertain with their movies (see the preview for “Insurgent” for such a ridiculous example), part one relies on the natural interactions of its characters. Though there are tense moments, there really isn’t a major climax. So when you go to see Mockingjay Part One, don’t expect a rollercoaster set of action sequences and rising action that leads to stunning conclusions and cliffhangers (though the twist at the end will leave you anxious to see part two). Be prepared to pay for a little over two hours of table setting and character development, putting characters in place for the final installment this time next year.
(Editor’s Note: This review was written by Jeff Merrick.)