In my Catching Fire review, published a year ago now, I wrote I was quite skeptical about the Mockingjay movies. Mockingjay was my least favourite book in the trilogy, because for some reason the rebellion wasn't that interesting to me. Anyway, Lionsgate decided to cash in on the success of the Hunger Games series and to split the final installment in two, thus making me even more skeptical really. Having seen the film now, I think splitting the movie may just have been a good decision. I did enjoy this first installment very much and the epic finale has yet to come.
To avoid spoilers, stop reading here.
Mockingjay starts a short period of time after Catching Fire ended. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), Finnick (Sam Claflin) and Beetee escaped the Quarter Quell arena and are refugees in the supposedly destroyed District 13. It is yet unclear if Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and the others survived too. District 12, Katniss' home, has been destroyed by President Sow (Donald Sutherland).
Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), president of District 13, and Plutarch Heavensbee (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman), Gamemaker of the 75th Hunger Games, want Katniss to be their 'Mockingjay'; the face of the rebellion against President Snow's dictatorship. Her performance in the past two Hunger Games has sparked a rebellious movement in multiple districts. Coin and Heavensbee intend to use Katniss' momentum to finally put an end to Snow's terrible regime. They plan on doing so, by joining forces with other districts. In a series of short video messages, so-called "propos", they want Katniss to show all of Panem what Snow has done. In the meantime Peeta turns out to be alive. He's being used by the Capitol to be their face as a reaction to all the rebels. The Capitol is pulling all stops to put an end to the rebellious movement, whereas District 13 is doing all they can to save Peeta and the other Victors.
From the first movie really, there has been a build-up to the rebellion that actually started now. This build-up is much more obvious and in some way subtle than it was in the books. I guess it's the main reason that I feel like the films are getting better towards the end, while the first book was by far my favourite in the trilogy. The films just handle expectations better.
In terms of acting The Hunger Games films are consistently very good. Most notably of course Jennifer Lawrence, who yet again knows to capture the audience with her raw performance. Even though her character may not always be the most likeable one, Lawrence does make you respect her. Julianne Moore is a very welcome addition to the cast. Moore is best known for critically acclaimed roles in films such as Magnolia, The Kids Are Alright and Maps to the Stars, but due to its stellar cast fits right in with the Hunger Games franchise. Her president Coin is just the way I pictured her; a bit distant, but very persistent and righteous. Julianne Moore is very much in Oscar contention with her perfomance in Still Alice. Her portrayal of Coin in what's probably going to be the commercially most succesful film of her career, will undoubtedly help her chances. The film is dedicated to Philip Seymour Hoffman, who in his last role is as good as he was in Catching Fire. Proving once again that his death is a true loss for the movie industry.
The costumes in Catching Fire are among my favourite costumes in recent film history. Especially Effie's (Elizabeth Banks) character has worn beautiful pieces. Unfortunately Effie is like Katniss and the others a refugee in District 13 now. Even in that position, where she has to wear the same simple grey overalls as everyone else, she stands out by adding the few accessories she has left, a series of intricate turbans and simple styling tricks. Effie's character in general is, despite its tiny size, very important. She and her fellow coach Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) add the much needed light in an otherwise rather dark movie.
Like I said before, my expectations for the movie weren't too high. It turned out to be actually very enjoyable and good though. Very much in line with the first two installments. The rebellion hasn't reached the Capitol just yet, so there is plenty of material for the Final installment too. I can't wait to see how 'they' visualized the Capitol and the invasion and I am very curious as to how the very end is handled. Unfortunately we have to be patient for another year to see how that will turn out.