‘Mockingjay Part 1’ lives up to the hype

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After a year away from the world of Panem with nothing but a killer cliffhanger, Hunger Games fans flocked to movie theaters this weekend, eager to be reunited with their favorite revolutionaries. But the Panem they returned to is one of fear and war, true fear and real war, no longer confined to the bubble of an arena. Directed by Francis Lawrence and starring Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson, the third installment of the Hunger Games series, Mockingjay: Part 1 moves away from the simple action and adventure plotline of the first two movies and begins to explore the ramifications of all out civil war.

The film works to show just how brutal this war has become, both physically through a chilling execution scene to reintroduce President Snow and psychologically as we watch our favorite characters adapt to survive in this new environment. Both Gale and Prim take stronger leadership roles in the revolution, as an officer and a doctor respectively. A bittersweet shift that returns to a key theme in the whole series: how death and war force children to become adults before they are ready. Despite displaying the District 12 citizens’ reactions to wartime changes and their subsequent emotional growth, Katniss’ own struggle with PTSD after the Quarter Quell plays a small role in the movie, which focuses instead on her growing connection to Peeta and dedication to the revolution.

Added scenes created to smooth the series’ transition to the big screen work to drive the plot forward and reveal the chaos in the districts and the effect of District 13’s propaganda. One new scene in particular, the bombing of a hydropower plant, is significantly important to the plot. It simultaneously reveals how far the citizens of Panem will go to cause chaos, the power of propaganda and then only afterwards is it revealed that the power outage caused by the attack gave District 13 the ability to hack into the Capitols defenses, an integral part of the rest of the movie.

As one of the Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final movies, the film was dedicated to the late actor. Hoffman had finished all but one scene for the two Mockingjay movies before his death and director Francis Lawrence has said it is possible to finish the film without resorting to CGI.

For those of you looking for a heart pounding return to the Hunger Games, Mockingjay: Part 1 does not disappoint. Filled with intense battle sequences, chilling realizations and an ending that will leave you with your jaw on the floor, Mockingjay is the perfect post-turkey pastime for this coming week. After seeing the first half of the finale I am counting down until Part 2 is released November 2015.

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