‘Mockingjay’ slow, sets up second half of film

By: Nathan Helfferich – Staff Writer

In 2010, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” was released. It was the first time a book-adapted movie franchise split the final novel of the series into two movies. Just one year later, the same strategy was implemented with the Twilight Saga. Are the motives of this strategy truly to improve the movie experience for moviegoers? Or is this plan purely for monetary gain?

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” was released Nov. 21. Just like the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises, the Hunger Games trilogy also split the final book into two movies. While many fans may have been thrilled that there was an extra movie added to the franchise, I found myself skeptical. Could the content of the book “Mockingjay” provide enough substance for two quality movies?

The second movie of the Hunger Games franchise, “Catching Fire,” ended with main character Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and fellow tributes breaking out of the Hunger Games arena as an act of rebellion. Her friend and fellow District 12 tribute, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), was captured by the corrupt government, the Capitol. The last 10 seconds of the movie show Katniss with a bone-chilling look of anger and intensity. She’s clearly pissed, and something is clearly about to go down.

In “Mockingjay Part 1,” Katniss is recruited for the rebellion against the Capitol. She is used heavily as propaganda to spark the rebellion in other districts. The home base for this rebellion is District 13, an underground, multi-layered structure. This fittingly provides the movie with a dark setting, darker than the previous two installments of the franchise.

Where this movie found most of its success is in the acting. Yet again, Lawrence provided a strong lead role as the fierce, resilient Katniss Everdeen. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman delivered as Plutarch Heavevnsbee, the energetic proponent of the rebellion, working with Katniss to send messages of revolution to the Capitol. It was refreshing to see Jeffrey Wright receive more screen time as he reprised his role as Beetee, the genius who contributes to the rebellion by wreaking havoc on the technology system of the Capitol. Woody Harrelson reminded the audience that his character Haymitch might just be the most entertaining person in the franchise. Donald Sutherland, who plays President Snow, has only become more and more exciting to watch as the story progresses.

One of the most interesting characters introduced into the movie is President Coin (Julianne Moore), president of District 13 and leader of the rebellion against the Capitol. Moore does a great job of creating an ambiguous character, leaving the audience to question her motives behind the rebellion.

If you’re looking for fast-paced, nonstop excitement similar to “The Hunger Games” and “Catching Fire,” you won’t find it in “Mockingjay Part 1.” Repetitive scenes and a slow-moving plot kept this movie from achieving success. For the plot that they were working with, however, the movie was about as successful as it could be. The odds weren’t necessarily in this movie’s favor to begin with.

This movie was made to build up “Mockingjay Part 2,” and it was extremely effective in doing that. Whether or not that build-up warranted its own movie is a question of debate. It seems like “Mockingjay Part 1” simply expanded on what “Catching Fire” accomplished in the last scene of its movie.

As far as what the future holds for Hunger Games fans, they can rest assured knowing that “Mockingjay Part 2,” set to be released November 2015, is destined for greatness. It’s often said that the best things come to those who wait, so here’s to waiting another year with chins up, smiles on.

I give “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” 2.5 out of four stars.