Guest ContributorHunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 is a moderately entertaining installment only for those already deeply invested in the popular film franchise. Jennifer Lawrence does a fine job showing the evolution of Katniss Everdeen from games competitor to a semi-media manufactured warrior leader of the district rebellion to come. However, the action that was such a highlight in the last installment, Catching Fire, is watered down here - leaving the film painfully padded with often unnecessary expository filler and dour content. Katniss is now in the company of the hidden rebellion headquarters helmed by Plutarch (Philip Seymour-Hoffman) and President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) as the duo try to convince Katniss to rally the growing but fractured rebellion among the various districts against the Capitol. Whose oppression and brutal iron boot tactics is kept steady under President Snow (Donald Sutherland). There are some interesting and entertaining sequences to be seen, such as when Katniss (Lawrence) is called upon to be the face of the district rebellion and has to be coached to convincingly convey the image of a powerful leader. Her tentative insecurity in her new role as the rallying lightning rod is wonderful to see evolve into something gradually stronger. She is literally coiffed and coached with all the orchestrated media choreography of a political campaign commercial. Another standout, but quieter moment is when Katniss is called upon to sing what will become the rebellion's rallying cry, "The Hanging Tree". In televised interviews, Lawrence stated she was terrified of having to sing on film, feeling her abilities were not up to the task. However, the sequence is poignant and memorable in Lawrence's rendition and commitment. Its quiet power suggests it ultimately generates unification among the districts. Mockingjay, Parts 1 & 2 could've/should've been folded into one streamlined, faster paced one part sequel. Instead, we get a fairly fun piece of filler that's clearly more of an appetizer to whet the palate of audiences for the big finaleslated to come a year from now. As a stand-alone film, especially for those new to the franchise, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 is entertaining enough, but it's still lacking. What we ultimately get with this installment is not much more than an intermission before the main event. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 is not a bad film by any means. However, it is a padded, overlong chapter whose payoff could've more effectively been told had it been combined with "Part 2" for one final spectacular film.
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