Courtesy of Lionsgate Films
Courtesy of Lionsgate Films

Say what you want, but I am awfully grateful that we live in an age where countless young adult book series are transformed into insanely popular blockbuster hits — and no, that is not a sarcastic statement. Don’t get me wrong, there have been many failed attempts at bringing these types of stories to life and there are always guaranteed plot holes and many other missed opportunities within these types of movies. However, some of the most exciting and culturally impacting film series, despite any technical flaws they may have, have come into fruition as a result. The Hunger Games is an example of one that is both riveting and engaging to a point where you might be compelled to volunteer as tribute to save the characters you have undoubtedly grown attached to. Although there is much debate as to whether or not final installments of these adapted book series should be split into two parts, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1” does a satisfactory job at setting up for the grand finale, and I’m glad we are in for a fourth and final ride.

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1” leaves off exactly where we last found our heroine Katniss Everdeen. After competing in and ultimately sabotaging the third Quarter Quell, a unique type of fight to the death between previous winners of the Hunger Games, Katniss is rescued and transported to District 13, where the heart of the rebellion has gathered. From there, the leaders of the rebellion are faced with the grim task of overthrowing an eccentric and egotistical maniac of a dictator. The primary method of doing this is through the use of propaganda to foster rebel pride, of which Katniss is the ultimate symbol. However, on the flip side, Katniss’ love interest and former partner in the Hunger Games, Peeta Mellark, is being brainwashed by President Coriolanus Snow and is spreading propaganda in favor of the oppressors and a ceasefire by rebel forces. This of course throws Katniss into a whirlwind of emotional distress, forcing her to deal with undeniable pain and conflicts. Instead of focusing too heavily on action, the movie zeroes in on storytelling, and revolves around building up emotional tension within the characters, which will ultimately unfold in the final installment.

Although the lack of many intense action sequences may be disappointing to some, the slow and tense plot buildup does an excellent job at not only revealing the true thoughts and emotions of the characters, but also creating an even greater sentimental attachment viewers may have for the characters and their struggle. The film constantly bombards viewers with scene after scene of unspeakable atrocities committed by Snow, as well as many instances of rebels fighting back with everything they have, even if it is only their lives. The combination of these two contrasting images are sure to resonate with viewers and fire up the rebel within. Multiple times I even found myself feeling the same anger and frustration experienced by the characters in the story to a point where I wished I could jump in and support them myself.

The emotional and thematic elements of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1” are the aspects that really stand out and are conveyed successfully through solid performances from the cast. Lead actress Jennifer Lawrence continues to do Katniss justice and is successful at revealing the tumultuous fluster of emotions going on between her head and heart. The rest of the cast, which includes actors and actresses such as the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore and Josh Hutcherson, to name a few, all put up solid performances as well, which aid in the ultimate goal of building up tension and suspense for a final release.

Ultimately this film focuses on slow and steady plot and character development. If you walk into this film seeking tons of action, expect to be extremely underwhelmed. “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1” is successful at creating intense buildup for the final installment. Although many viewers may be disappointed by this, this film is still an enjoyable and emotionally charged experience.

Rating: 3.5 stars