Mockingjay, Part One (2014)

November 21, 2015

Picking up right where the second saga in The Hunger Games trilogy left off, the
first part of what was adapted as the final and epic conclusion, was again
something I dawdled seeing. As is my usual standard, I picked up a DVD on its
release week and these many months
later, on the eve of “part 2” and its debut, I finally sat down to watch this one. 

The games have destroyed Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer
Lawrence). She is shattered and broken by what she saw and did. Leaving Peeta
behind has been her undoing. This is why when she recoups in District 13, she
desperately awaits news of Peeta’s survival. No news comes. What does come is
13’s President Coin (Julianne Moore), wanting to recruit Katniss as their
Mockingjay, the face of their revolution. 

Together with Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Katniss sparks a change
in the surviving districts that incites revolution in all their hearts. Joining
their fight is the equally broken Finnick (Sam Claflin) and a handful of 13’s
residents including newcomer Cressida (Natalie Dormer), who is hired to produce
Katniss’ propo’s, and then there is Effie (Elizabeth Banks). Returning, she
follows Katniss around to again ensure she looks the part. Everything is
going according to plan until a news broadcast reveals that Peeta Mellark (Josh
Hutcherson) is in fact, still alive and he’s being used as President Snow
(Donald Sutherland) and the Capital’s weapon against Katniss.
As every review I’ve written for this series documents, I
enjoy a love-hate relationship with this series. The premise of this is so
frightening and to see the act of young people fighting just for a hierarchy’s
personal pleasure never sat well with me. After reading one book and seeing
three movies, my opinion that the films are better than the books remains unchanegd. The story
here is no different. It’s freaking fantastic and could even be the best in the
franchise to date (at this writing, “part two” is still a few hours away so
I’ve not had a chance to see it). 

Everything about this production is blockbuster movie
perfection. There is fantabulous costuming and no matter my personal opinion,
the layers to this world-building are intricate and complex. That’s to say
nothing of the cast which is sensational. I really liked all of the new faces
and the actors who played them including Cressida and Coin. The leading men
continue to impress though I was most delighted to feel more about Gale in this film; he’d been too insignificant for
me in the prior outings. Here, he’s a living, breathing character who I
genuinely felt a roller-coaster of emotions for, not the least of which was his
unrequited love. Then there is Josh as Peeta, who gives a startling performance
despite his limited screen time. 

All of these performances are anchored by the supremely
talented Jennifer Lawrence. The girl again proves she can take origin material
and make this character something altogether different. Her Katniss summons so
much more than Book Katniss ever did.
The movies have gone through different directors and writers, but through it
all, they somehow each compliment their counterparts, strengthening as they move
along. The filmmaking in this is unusually effective. Overlapping many scenes
are voiceovers and sharp cuts to the tense, action scenes unfolding yet they’re
all used to the great advantage of “Story,” or in other words, the editing and
filming of this is, plainly put, dazzling. 

Though more could be said, the thrust of everything I have
to say circles back to one thing: fans of this franchise are missing out if
you’re putting off seeing these films. I had nearly reached the halfway mark in
the book when watching this (which is approximately what this film does span)
and was innately impressed with this both as a film and an adaptation.
Everything was molded and shaped into this, and because of that, I think these
deserve any and all adoration they receive as versions of a universally loved
young adult series. All that said and I’ve really said nothing everyone else
hasn’t said a million times prior. But know this: Mockingjay is an excellent book-to-film adaptation and if you’re
not into reading, it’s a great production on its own. Only be warned, if you’re
not a theater goer, don’t watch this one yet. That ending is sure to not only
make you tear up, but startle you back to reality when you realize
the end is as shocking as it is quiet. 

(Violence and the illusion to torture are the primary
reasons for the PG13 rating; there
are multiple casualties as districts make a stand and are murdered by Capitol


  • Kristin

    November 21, 2015 at 1:23 am

    Though Mockingjay is my least favorite book of the Hunger Games trilogy, this film was a great adaptation (as the first two were…some of the best, if not the best, book-to-film adaptations I've ever seen!). And I'm looking forward to seeing the second part sometime soon, I hope. :)

    1. Rissi

      November 25, 2015 at 1:18 am

      I agree, Kristin! This adaptation was fabulous! As you say, these have been some of THE best book-to-screen adaptations the film industry boasts (though I never did read Catching Fire I suspect the same can be said of it). I feel like this film in particular was one of the most powerful.

      Enjoy "part 2" if/when you see it. I thought it was amazing! :)

  • Shannon Miz

    November 23, 2015 at 6:52 am

    I just rewatched this in the double MJ feature, and I agree, it was really good. The casting for Mockingjay was just EPIC. Like, I really cannot think of a single character who could have been cast better. I like that in the movie, we are able to see the stuff going on in the Capitol and other districts, where in the book it's such a limited scope. Of course, there are a few things that I would have liked to see in the movie, but I guess that is just how it is when doing a book-movie adaptation, some things need to go ;)

    Now, you obviously must go see MJ2 ASAP. I have seen it twice, because I clearly have problems, but it was SO GOOD. Even better the second time, when I was able to see some of the smaller nuances that I'd missed the first time around. I cannot WAIT to read your thoughts on it!!
    Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight

    1. Rissi

      November 25, 2015 at 1:23 am

      Yay! I'm glad you feel these are excellent as well, Shannon; I'm constantly impressed by this series as films! Like you, I cannot seem to talk enough about the cast… it's wonderful. The producers assembled the ideal group. :)

      I have since seen "part 2" and 100% agree with you, Shannon! It's SO GOOD! I'll probably wait for the DVD, but I also can see where it'd be even better or as good a second time around! Thank you so much for reading this review and your kind words. I'm getting ready to publish my thoughts on the finale as we speak! :)

  • Sarah & Bernie

    November 24, 2015 at 2:46 am

    I'm currently reading the first book and I'm just zooming through it so excited to get done with all the books. I'm excited to see the movies once I get done too! It looks so good though! :)

    1. Rissi

      November 25, 2015 at 1:24 am

      Yay! Hope you enjoy, Ellie. I thought these story's as films are wonderfully produced and acted. Everything comes together to perfection. Bravo to all the filmmakers! :)

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