Tonight’s first was a viewing of Mockingjay Part 1, the third movie in the Hunger Games saga. In attendance with me were my sister Linda, daughter Elissa, and grandson Dayan. I think everyone except me has also read the books which these movies are based on. Being this far in, I think I’ll wait until the final film releases next year, before reading the books. That way, I’ll be surprised by the ending!
Mockingjay stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Julianne Moore. It was directed by Francis Lawrence and is based on the young adult novel of the same name by Suzanne Collins. This sci-fi adventure is rated PG-13, for violence, and has a run time of 2 hours and 3 minutes.
Book three in the Hunger Games series, like the Twilight series before it, has been split into two movies. Mockingjay Part 1 recently released with Part 2 to follow late next year. Picking up immediately after the end of last year’s Catching Fire, young heroine Katniss (Lawrence) takes refuge in District 13, located deep beneath the surface of the earth. She shattered the Games, ending them abruptly, and in doing so ignited a desire among the districts for freedom from the Capitol and President Snow (Sutherland). Peeta (Hutcherson) is held captive in the Capitol, along with two other victors. Katniss is reunited with her family and with Gale (Hemsworth), and meets the leader of the rebellion, President Coin (Moore).
President Coin and Katniss’ rescuer, Plutarch Heavensbee (Hoffman), and her old friend and trainer Haymitch (Harrelson) convince Katniss to become the Mockingjay, a symbol of resistance, courage and strength. Propaganda films are created and shown in the other districts to unite them into a rebellion that can overthrow the Capitol. Her candid and fierce appearances on the videos are fanning the flames of freedom while her haunting song, “The Hanging Tree” is sung by the masses as an anthem of hope. President Snow is creating propaganda films of his own, using Peeta to plead publically with Katniss to stand down and end the rebellion. Seeing Peeta being used in such a manner deeply distresses Katniss.
Unable to bear Peeta’s imprisonment, Katniss is ready to give up, when her comrades stage a successful break in and rescue the victors from the Capitol. Katniss’ joy is shortlived when she discovers Peeta’s mind has been altered. Instead of rejoicing over his reunion with his friend and partner in the Games, he tries to kill her. The screen fades to black as Peeta struggles against his restraints in the hospital bed, while President Coin announces to a cheering crowd that the rebellion is underway.
I know some have characterized this movie as slow, since there are no Games carried out in film three. Some have even called it a long trailer setting up Part 2. I liked the movie, though, and enjoyed the character development, and I especially enjoyed watching Jennifer Lawrence in the role of Katniss. She may not be fighting in the Games, but she is struggling to find her way, all the same. Her world is shifting, she is the enemy of a very powerful, vengeful man, and…..she loves two men, Gale and Peeta. If those conflicts weren’t enough to deal with, she is elevated to being the symbol for freedom in the districts. There is a grittiness to Mockingjay Part 1. And scenes with depth and angst in them, as Katniss searches for truth without losing herself, that brought tears to my eyes.
There was also an undercurrent of sadness for me, watching the performance by actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died with one week of filming left. I always appreciated Philip. He was an extremely gifted and versatile actor. Every time he was on the screen tonight, I studied his face, listened carefully to his words, watched him as one whom I will say goodbye to and not see again. He is, however, in the last film. I googled for information to see if Philip’s crucial role would be given to another actor to complete. What I found suggested that he had finished most of his scenes so the character would not be recast. Some scenes were rewritten to remove him from them and computer generation was used to complete his part in the film. Mockingjay Part 1 was dedicated to his memory, in the closing credits.
One more year to wait on this series. One more movie to complete the story. With all the film trilogies and sequels and series I’ve fallen in love with, I’ve gotten rather good at waiting for the next installments. It’s a good thing that I enjoy and appreciate anticipation!
Philip Seymour Hoffman with Julianne Moore