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Mockingjay, Part 1

I think one of the reasons big corporate studios love serial movies (trilogies and so forth) is because once you’re hooked into a series, you’ll go see it to the end, whether or not the movies are any good, even if it’s out of nothing more than a yearning for resolution. (I think the “Twilight” series proved that conclusively.) When it comes to the Hunger Games, I thought the first movie was entertaining enough, even if it was a sanitized version of the Japanese classic “Battle Royale.”  It was the second movie that got me hooked, and that’s why I saw “Mockingjay, Part 1.” This is the worst of the lot, by far, but damn if I haven’t already made up my mind to see “Part 2.”
Not that it’s a bad film, exactly, but Suzanne Collins’ determination to follow Katniss down the rabbit hole of revolution has gotten darker at every term, and by this point it’s taking us some really depressingly glum places. This is not a happy movie. Or a pretty movie, or a satisfying movie.  It opens, for heaven’s sake, with our brave, resourceful heroine cowering in a storage closetand begging everyone to just leave her be.  It doesn’t get better from there.
After cracking the sky open at the end of “Catching Fire,” Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) wakes up underground at the beginning of “Mockingjay.” She is in the secret realm of District 13, not destroyed after all, but building a resistance movement to take down the Capitol. Julianne Moore is the President of the Rebellion, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, once her man inside, is now something like her Director of Communications. They need Katniss to make a series of propaganda films to motivate the other districts to join the Resistance, but Katniss, so inspiring in the Games, is terrible, terrible, terrible when trying to recite lines in front of a camera. (One of my favorite things in movies: watching a good actress, like Lawrence, play a bad actress. It’s always worth a laugh.)
To make matters worse, the Capitol has Peeta, and he’s making a series of propaganda films for that side — and it’s not clear if he’s being coerced, or worse, into doing so. Every time his face lights up the big screen, Katniss turns to goo and wonders if she’s doing the right thing.  She convinces the resistance to launch a rescue mission, but what they find will really pull your stomach out through your feet.  And that’s where the film ends.
This movie is a test: can we take away everything that made you want to see the first two Hunger Games films: the Games themselves, the fantastic costumes, the romantic tension between Katniss and Peeta — and still make you watch it?  The answer is “yes” — but “Part 2” better pull us up out of the dark in spectacular and heartwarming ways, or I’m going to feel like this trudge through the mud wasn’t worth my while.
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Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.

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