JON SCOTT
Entertainment Editor

It seems that one of the newest trends circling around Hollywood is taking the final book of a wildly successful series and stretching it out to multiple films.

“Harry Potter” was the first to have done this.

Considering that that final film made at least over a billion dollars combined, many major film studios have attempted to keep their cash cow flowing for as long as possible (i.e. the “Twilight” saga and the upcoming finale to the “Divergent” series).

This brings us to today’s topic, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.”

The film picks up right where the last installment, “Catching Fire,” left off. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has rebelled against the Capitol during the 75th Annual Hunger Games, the Quarter Quell. After her home, District 12, was decimated, Katniss is hiding out in District 13, which was long thought to be destroyed. The people there are led by President Coin (Julianne Moore).

Katniss is asked by Coin to become the face of the rebellion that plans to overthrow the Capitol and their leader, President Snow (Donald Sutherland). While this is happening, Katniss must try to find if Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is still alive after having been captured in the last film.

Going in, I was clearly excited by the latest chapter, as I am a fan of the “Hunger Games” franchise.

While the idea of stretching a 390-page book into two films seemed like a bit much (more on that shortly), I was still excited to see what director Francis Lawrence’s vision for the final chapter would look like.

Needless to say, I was not disappointed by the film.

This is another particularly strong entry in the franchise and further proves Lawrence’s skill in handling the source material.

The cast is on their A-game in the film. Jennifer Lawrence absolutely nails it once again as Katniss. With this film, she shows off another layer of the character, which is that of the hardened, tortured rebel leader.

I thought Lawrence was able to portray this new dimension quite nicely, and even adds some bits of humor in there as well.

The rest of the supporting cast were also phenomenal. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman, in one of his final roles, was excellent as Plutarch Heavensbee. I thought Hoffman added a certain gravitas to the role, considering he’s better known for small art house films rather than big budget pictures. In addition, the adding of Julianne Moore to the cast was a nice fit as well.

Returning favorites Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks as Haymitch and Effie Trinket, respectively, are also a blast to watch, especially in the one scene they both have together.

Haymitch has become more of a guardian to Katniss this time, while still being incredibly snarky about everything. Effie, who is completely unrecognizable and still very amusingly prim and haughty, is also a joy to watch.

Finally, Josh Hutcherson, although he appears briefly, still leaves an impression, especially towards the end, where things are not always as they seem…
The direction of this film is handled very well.

Gone is the incredibly shaky camerawork of the first film. Director Francis Lawrence really knows how to balance the action as well as the sense of dread shown depicted throughout the film.

My favorite scene (and this is a scene that has no big plot points spoiled) is where Katniss sings softly while scenes of rebellion and unrest are shown throughout the districts.

It’s one of the most powerful scenes in the film and Francis captures that feeling to great effect.

The only problem I really had with this movie was that I feel it did not need to be two movies.

Rather, I could see it being consolidated into just one film, one that maybe could have been slightly over two-and-a-half hours.

While I did enjoy the film, I did think that they were padding the story quite a bit as a result of trying to make one film into two.
However, that is a minor nitpick of what is overall a very good film.

I was entertained from start to finish and I am eagerly awaiting the final installment.

Grade: A-

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