“Mockingjay, Part 1” sets the stage for “The Hunger Games” finale

 By Hannah Mason, Assistant Editor

Anyone following “The Hunger Games” sci-fi phenomenon over the past few years is likely to want to check out the newest movie version with the recently released “Mockingjay, Part 1” in theaters now. Having seen it myself, I agree that it’s a must-see for those of us intent on following this series to its conclusion.

However, though I’d recommend seeing it once, just to keep up with the series and to set us up for “Mockingjay, Part 2,” my recommendation comes with a warning. “Mockingjay, Part 1” plays a little too true to the first half of the last book in the trilogy: it’s long, devoid of action, and it’s rather bleak.

For sure, don’t go into this one expecting to see a feel-good holiday film. (Actually, don’t go into any dystopian sci-fi film expecting anything but a heavy political melodrama). The third installment in this movie series, based on the bestselling book trilogy by Suzanne Colins, opens up with our friend Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) beginning, as expected, her spiral into madness, shaking in fear and sleeplessness down a ventilation shaft in the secret underground compound of District 13.

If you’ll remember, “Catching Fire” saw Katniss (and Peeta and Finnick and a host of others) in the 75th Hunger Games, called the Quarter Quell, where Katniss outwitted the Capitol’s system and destroyed the arena with a well-timed, lightning-charged arrow at a force field. Little did Katniss know that she was part of a larger revolution against the Capitol, led by District 13’s President Coin and former Hunger Games Head Gamemaker, Plutarch Heavensbee. Katniss and Finnick are whisked away by hovercraft to “recover” in District 13, while Peeta, Johanna Mason, and the others are captured and taken to the Capitol.

In “Mockingjay, Part 1,” Katniss teams up with President Coin, Heavensbee, and the rest of District 13 as the symbol of the revolution, the Mockingjay. All across Panem, revolution is stirring; as Katniss says herself, “fire is catching.” While the real fighting happens between the Capitol’s Peacekeepers and regular citizens of the Districts, Katniss and President Snow fight it out over the airwaves, Katniss featured in a series of propaganda films meant to incite the rebels, Peeta set on air by Snow to try to talk them down.

 We’ll just have to wait until “Mockingjay, Part 2” comes out to find out what it’s all building up to. With an unsettling ending that leaves everything in Katniss’s world up in the air, this movie definitely serves its purpose of making you want to come back as soon as possible to see the final installment, which (according to imdb.com) is slated to come out this time next year, in November 2015.

However, setting up the next movie is virtually all it does, though to be fair it is, as expected, very well-made and well-casted. The book wouldn’t have worked if it was just the first half, and neither does the movie, really. But because it’s “The Hunger Games,” fans (including myself) will continue to come back for more, nevertheless. I know I for one am “hungry” to see what Hollywood will make out of “Mockingjay’s” contentious conclusion.

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