“Mockingjay: Part One” improves on novel


mockingjay-part-1-image-61By Garrett Strother
Entertainment Editor
Amid the constant stream of young-adult dystopian-novels-turned films, a select few stand out from the crowd. Perhaps the most popular and notable example is The Hunger Games franchise, whose most recent installment “Mockingjay: Part One” arrived Nov. 21.
“Mockingjay” shows that the films have earned that place all on their own, even standing apart from their novels.
The first film in the series, based on the first and best of the three books, made a mindless action movie out of the scathing critique of modern education. However, the series really (ahem) lit up when the second film, “Catching Fire,” turned out to be a great movie that captured the political commentary the first film lacked, and it was even better than its literary counterpart.
“Mockingjay” continues the precedent set by “Catching Fire” and delivers a phenomenal, if slightly distracted, film that is also better than the novel it is based on.
At the beginning of the film, we rejoin our heroine Katniss Everdeen as she is faced with being forced into a revolution against the oppressive Capital whose leaders orchestrated the titular Hunger Games. She must navigate the political channels and deceptive forces acting upon her to protect her family. And she must overcome them to get back her friend Peeta from the Capital.
Part political thriller, part science fiction, and part war movie, “Mockingjay” delivers a blurry and skewed view of war and people’s place in it. Jennifer Lawrence again flawlessly delivers her performance as Katniss, this time depicting as her conflicted yet brave when she is faced with a new, more broken world.
Katniss is a worthy role model and great character, but some of that gets lost in the shuffle as the film focuses on a love triangle that literally spans a continent and does little other than add drama that the film simply doesn’t need. However, this is by far the biggest problem that “Mockingjay” has.
While Katniss is a fantastic protagonist, the other characters shine all on their own. Notably, this is the last role of acting legend Philip Seymour Hoffman (including this film with Part Two, which comes out in November of next year). His performance as revolutionary Plutarch Heavensbee is subtle and scathing, as simple looks of disdain toward his commanding officer tell volumes more about the character than dialogue alone ever could.
But the best job, and one of the shortest in the movie, in Josh Hutcherson’s powerhouse performance as Peeta Mellark. Hutcherson’s casting as Peeta originally caused a stir from fans; yet his solid performances in the first two films quelled the concerns. However, this movie goes above and beyond anything the young actor has ever done. His nuanced performance as the possibly mistreated prisoner of war is glimpsed largely through interviews that the other characters watch on television.
Every twitch and flicker of emotion from him keeps the audience guessing, trying to figure out exactly where Peeta stands. Hutcherson and his performance truly hold their own in this cast populated by Oscar winners.
“Mockingjay: Part One” is the best of The Hunger Games movies, and improves greatly upon the book it is based on. With so many characters and twists to digest, the film is sure to stand up to multiple viewings and secure its place among the best films of the holiday season.