This film is based on the first part of Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay, the final book in her best-selling Hunger Games trilogy. The film corresponding to the second part of the book will be released in 2015. Our Friday night Movie Club (including a few additional honorary members) was really looking forward to this film (much as we did with each Harry Potter film). We purchased tickets in advance, and arrived in the theatre about 45 minutes before show time, only to find several excited patrons already in there ahead of us. It was a very festive atmosphere.
As the film starts, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), her sister Primrose (Willow Shields) and her mother are safe, far below ground in a bunker in District 13. However, Katniss’ true love Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is being held as a propaganda tool by the Capitol’s evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland). We see an increasingly thinner and paler Peeta shows up on television pleading for peace in “interviews” led by Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci).
Image consultant Plutarch (played by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, to whom the film is dedicated) tells district President Coin (Julianne Moore) that Katniss is needed as the Mockingjay, to rally the district against the capitol. Katniss initially rejects the idea, but after seeing the death and destruction in her District 12, she agrees, but adds her own conditions. Among those conditions are that Peeta (who is now seen as an enemy) is rescued and pardoned.
President Coin then uses Katniss to film videos, much like President Snow uses Peeta. Katniss is in love with Peeta, though it is obvious that Gale (Liam Hemsworth) also loves her.
Woody Harrelson returns as now sober Haymitch (thanks to the prohibition as he calls it), and Elizabeth Banks brings some comic relief as Effie.
The film is bleak, the darkest installment yet of the three films released to date. It seemed to drag, much like Interstellar did, and at 123 minutes could have been edited more effectively, or better yet, make just one film from the final book, rather than stretching it into two.
The film features a strong cast, led by Lawrence. The story does not move forward too much in this film, but it sets us up for next year’s finale.