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Media Review: “Mockingjay – Part 1”

The newest installment of the Hunger Games film adaptations, “Mockingjay – Part 1,” is, in a word, intense.

Despite covering only half the book, as is the trend for the final book in a series now, “Mockingjay” never feels slow or drawn out. When there isn’t action, there are captivating emotional scenes.

“Mockingjay” switches gears from the previous two movies. Instead of fighting for her life in the arena, Katniss [Jennifer Lawrence] is living in the relative safety of District 13, the headquarters for the rebellion against the Capitol.

The scope of the story has changed as well. We get to see more of the fictional country of Panem and the ordinary people who are oppressed by the Capitol.

While Katniss had some powerful scenes, I highly enjoyed getting to see the other districts’ part the in rebellion. Something the movies do better than the books is give the audience a broader view of Panem, of life outside Katniss’ current situation. Some of the scenes that stuck with me the most were those that showed the rebellions happening away from District 13.

One thing I disliked about the film was Sam Claflin’s portrayal of Finnick, a fellow survivor of the arena. In District 13, Finnick is really the only person who can relate to what Katniss is going through, yet this connection is barely even noted by the movie. In addition, Claflin seems to be playing Finnick as dazed and disoriented. It’s an understandable way to portray a character who has been through so much, but it leaves Finnick seeming bland. At one point, Finnick reveals some dark truths about his past, but  Claflin delivers the lines fairly unemotionally, which lessened the impact of what was an intense scene in the book. Also lessening the impact was the fact that the movie cut between Finnick and a much more tense situation throughout Finnick’s speech.

The film also tried hard, perhaps too hard at one point, to make Gale [Liam Hemsworth] interesting and sympathetic. To me, his character mostly just fell flat. Gale and Katniss had better interactions in this movie, but any chemistry they had disappeared when the focus switched to romance — which wasn’t often, thankfully.

At the end of the previous movie, Peeta [Josh Hutcherson] was left behind in the arena and taken by the Capitol. Most of his scenes are hard to watch, as Hutcherson portrays Peeta’s mental and physical deterioration well. The glimpses we get of him get more and more heartbreaking throughout the movie.

On the flip side is Effie Trinket [Elizabeth Banks], who adds some comic relief. She may not have her Capitol finery in the utilitarian District 13, but she hasn’t lost her sassy personality. Comedic moments are used sparingly, however, which is fitting for the plot.

All in all, “Mockingjay” is a fairly good adaptation and worth the watch.

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