Max Shatan, ’18
It was an unusually warm Sunday afternoon, and I sat in a massive dark room with 500 other people, all gazing reverently into what was probably the largest screen in a five mile radius. We were all there to experience The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, the third installment of the massively popular film franchise based on the massively popular young adult book series. Taking that into account, the series could have gone any which way in terms of quality. But the general consensus is that the director, Francis Lawrence, has taken a genuine stab at making some good movies.
Throughout the three films Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss Everdeen, victor of the Hunger Games, a battle royale fought between 24 teenagers. Katniss hails from District 12, one of twelve districts, all oppressed by “The Capitol,” a massive city (and legislative center) that is the center of Panem. In this installment, Katniss wakes up in subterranean District 13 (previously thought to be bombed to oblivion) where she has been rescued from her second Hunger Games by a covert operation commanded by Plutarch Heavensbee, played by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.
This film focuses on the first part of the final Hunger Games book Mockingjay, in which Katniss must use her reputation as a defiant “tribute” in the Hunger Games to spark a revolution. This is done by filming propaganda clips and engaging in combat against the Capitol’s peacekeepers.
As an entry to the franchise, Mockingjay is perfectly serviceable. It fits in with the dystopian atmosphere that has been one of the films’ trademarks. There are some genuinely suspenseful moments, which will probably satisfy the adrenaline rush that most American moviegoers crave. The cinematography and basic plot are sound, and the sets look convincingly futuristic.
However, the film’s younger leads fall flat in terms of performance. Josh Hutcherson does a convincing-enough job of playing a brainwashed Peeta, (Katniss’ love interest) but his usual portrayal of the character is just as robotic. The same goes for Liam Hemsworth, who plays Gale (Katniss’ other love interest). Jennifer Lawrence rises above the two, if only slightly, because she can display two emotions, indifference and panic. Overall, watching this love triangle unfold over the course of the film series has the effect of watching a sordid reality show about the love lives of 2x4s.
However, the film is the perfect blockbuster, something you chew popcorn loudly during, go to the bathroom and return without missing much, and not pay much attention to for two hours. But if you pay attention, you will discover an average film that will both entertain and surprise.