The rebellion is back and the spark that is Katniss Everdeen ignites to bring us “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part 1),” the first half of the end of “The Hunger Games” series, released in theaters Nov. 21.
Jennifer Lawrence returns as the bold and strong-willed Everdeen, who awakens in a conglomerate of underground tunnels that make up District 13. This district is an extension of Panem, or post apocalyptic North America, that has been something like a myth up until this point in the trilogy. The revelation of District 13 cements the reality of the revolution that is almost ready to run its course. The fate of Panem teeters as rebel leaders, President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) urge Katniss to become the face of the rebellion. Using what remains of District 12 and her former games companion, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) as motivators, Katniss takes the beginning steps to end the oppression of the Capitol.
Director Francis Lawrence, also known for directing films such as “I Am Legend” (2005) and “Water For Elephants” (2011), recreates the atmosphere of war that extends beyond the rubble of above ground District 13 to the Capitol itself. This atmosphere is meant to lock the audience away with Katniss and to force us to become participants rather than observers of the rebel plan. As participants, the audience is immersed into the range of emotion that each character experiences, especially involving the subplot that addresses the absence of Peeta in District 13. Lawrence heightens the tensions of Peeta’s absence by telling a story through a series of war propaganda videos exchanged back and forth between the rebels and President Snow (Donald Sutherland).
Amidst the chaos of war, the rebellion makes some room for a small glance into the love triangle that Katniss, Peeta and Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) make up. “Catching Fire” introduced the victors of District 12 as lovers as a ploy to humanize them in order to spare their lives. Beyond the confines of the game walls, Katniss’ true feelings slowly emerge along with the fate of Peeta. This triangle, oddly reminiscent of the “Twilight Saga” softens the blow of the violent, but necessary uprisings of the districts against their oppressors. Unlike “Twilight,” the “Hunger Games’” love story is only background noise to the greater issue of impending war.
“Mockingjay (Part 1)” is a strong beginning of an end. The fan favorite cast returns to bring life to the characters that make up post apocalyptic North America. Though slow at points, the film creates a solid framework for the continuation of the rebel plan. The film’s attention to the detail of the rebellion takes audiences on a roller coaster ride that moves the audience upward only to level out at the top. It may sound discouraging, but it is how the film should function. The film ends in a way that will let the ride pick up where it left off in the final “Mockingjay” film.