Sunday, December 7, 2014
Movie Review - "The Hunger Games - Mockingjay Part 1" - Never Too Much Jennifer Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence continues to impress me with each new film she does. I've become convinced that "The Hunger Games" movies have become nothing more than a vehicle to show just how captivating and enticing Jennifer Lawrence is as an actress.
She could read the phone book and make it an exciting acting performance.
I mentioned in my "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" review that I was not impressed by the first film in the series, mostly due to the world and story being nothing new and being done in better movies like "Battle Royale." The only redeeming quality was the acting, mostly due to the fiery passion and intensity of Lawrence. The same can be said for the second film, but that one had the added benefit of interesting supporting characters and great tension throughout.
With the third film in the series, "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1," we move away from the structure and predictability of the first two films and more into world building and a political piece about a corrupt system that only cares about itself. As such, the film relies much more on its cast of diverse characters leading a rebellion, with Lawrence leading the way and blowing everyone out of the water.
Set after the events of the last film, the world of Panem is closer to civil war than ever before. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) has survived the last Hunger Games and has been taken to the long-thought extinct District 13, sheltered from the Capitol and President Snow (Donald Sutherland). The leaders of the District believe they can overtake the Capitol, but only if every District joins the rebellion. They believe this can be achieved by using Katniss as the "Mockingjay" to lead the rebellion and show that if the Capitol plans to burn everyone, they will burn along all the others.
This could so easily enter the realm of cliché and meander around until the end, by proclaiming Katniss is the chosen one and put her up on a pedestal, much like Harry Potter or Luke Skywalker (to a lesser extent). But the film makes Katniss more human than ever before. She is not a leader and doesn't know the first thing about giving a speech. She only knows what is in her heart and the passion that drives her to protect that which she loves.
The film plays to those strengths and gives Katniss room to roam around the world and see what the Capitol has done. Then again, none of that would work if it were not for the captivating performance by Jennifer Lawrence.
Lawrence is in nearly every scene in the film, but it never feels like we see too much of her. From the simplest conversation with her sister to the big emotional moments of watching innocent people die, Lawrence is always giving it her all. She rides the line between being over the top and subtle, much like actors such as Bryan Cranston and William Shatner. You're never too sure how they're going to react to something, but you always know it is going to be with passion and fiery eyes.
That being said "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1" is quite suspenseful and atmospheric, especially when President Snow reacts to Katniss' propaganda. He uses Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) as his own means to persuade the people of Panem, and he uses him like a hostage with a knife to his throat. Almost every piece of clothing Peeta wears looks like he is being strangled and forced to say what Snow wants him to say.
"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1" is a tale of two desperate sides using propaganda and fear to fight the other, hoping that their words and film will be enough to make the other back down. Katniss and Snow only have one face-to-face interaction, and it comes near the end of the film. They are both hiding in the shadows, waiting for the moment to strike, but neither is going to back down.
The pacing is pitch perfect, the tension is thick and it is all driven by a superb performance by Jennifer Lawrence. Not much is accomplished though and it does take a while before things finally start to get interesting. Not quite as good as "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" but is still quite enjoyable, if only to watch a cold and calculating game of Cat-and-Mouse, where you're not so sure who is the cat and mouse.
Final Grade: B