There will be spoilers for the movie in this review.

First things first: separating a single book into multiple parts is annoying. In general. While I love The Hobbit, it’s pretty clear that it could’ve at least been cut into two, it didn’t need to be a trilogy. Most of the time it’s fairly obvious it’s a money-grabbing idea. So I will say that Mockingjay could have been one movie, and there are several moments in this movie that I went “this could easily be cut.” That being said, I understand at the same time the reasons why lengthening this wasn’t the worst idea. My father was irritated by it, but I told him that this part was more about setting the atmosphere. There’s a lot of action and tragedy coming, and I can see how this is putting the breadcrumbs down leading us in the right direction. I’ll talk about this more later, but I wanted to acknowledge that in general, I think this is irritating and it’s hard not to want to give a side eye at people for doing it. The most egregious would be Twilight, since even Twilight fans admit the books are way too thin to have two parts. But they knew that money maker needed to be bled dry. I wrote a review of Catching Fire, so check that out before I continue on to Mockingjay Part 1.

There are spoilers for the movie here, but I am going to not spoil the rest of the book for you. You’re welcome. Because of that, I won’t be able to say everything I want to until the next movie, so I’ll approach this as its own entity.

Previously on the Hunger Games: Katniss Everdeen volunteers to be in the annual Hunger Games to save her sister’s life. It’s a competition that forces two children from each District (there are twelve active ones, the thirteenth was destroyed) to kill each other until there’s one survivor. It’s so the rich and powerful Capitol can keep the lower classes/districts in their place. Katniss and Peeta Mellark are chosen for their district, and they managed to survive by pretending to be in love with each other. When they stated they would kill themselves instead of survive, they were allowed to live. Katniss however did not love Peeta, it was an act, although his emotions were sincere. Afterward, Katniss inadvertently became a symbol of rebellion and captured the hearts of the people looking for a reason to be violent and angry. In Catching Fire, President Snow wanted to regain power, so he forced the new Hunger Games to include all the former victors. Specifically so he could get Katniss killed, but as a warning that their fear never should be over. Instead the rebellion planned to get Katniss broken out of the games, with the help of fellow victors Finnick, Beetee, and Johanna. In the end of Catching Fire, she was told by best friend Gale Hawthorne that her entire district was destroyed, but her mother and sister survived. She was brought to District 13, although Peeta and Johanna were left behind.

Get it, got it, good.

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This one starts out very soon afterward. Katniss is experiencing very serious PTSD after surviving her second Hunger Games. She’s in District 13 and sees Plutarch Heavensbee (last performance of Philip Seymour Hoffman), who is trying to persuade President Coin to use Katniss for the rebellion’s cause. Katniss has no interest in becoming the Mockingjay, being angry about Peeta, and still traumatized from everything. However after seeing District 12’s destruction for herself, she agrees to become the Mockingjay if they pardon Peeta and the others and rescue them. Peeta is being used by Snow to say on video that he doesn’t support Katniss and the rebellion and begging them to stop fighting. This means people really hate him, and Coin refuses at first, but she agrees to if Katniss does her part. However, Katniss is not very good on camera, faking propaganda is not her strength. Her mentor Haymitch points out that Katniss is best in the field, so they agree to send her out into the field with a camera crew.

They go to District 8 to visit a hospital and give the people there hope. While Katniss is still disturbed by the love sent her way, she assures them she will fight with them. Snow finds out she’s there and decides to destroy the hospital to try and break her spirit. Instead Katniss destroys the attack ships, and then does a passionate speech about how “if we burn, you burn with us.” It works perfectly for propaganda, and she becomes the Mockingjay everyone wants to look to for strength. She also films going to her old district with Gale and talking about what happened there, and she sings a work song. They splice that in with Peeta’s next video, and he is shaken out of whatever the Capitol’s done to him. He warns them that they’re coming to District 13. Everyone just manages to get to safety below, and there are no casualties. Katniss believes this spelled the death of Peeta for warning them, and they agree to go rescue them now. They are all rescued, but Snow seems smug regardless. It’s because Peeta has been brainwashed and drugged into seeing Katniss as the enemy, so when he sees her, he tries to murder her. The rebellion prepares for the final war, and that’s where it ends.

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There are several things I really liked about this movie. The atmosphere and general feel of it is tense and stark. The war images here are genuinely disturbing, to the point where I’m like “I don’t know if I’d let young kids see this.” I think they do a good job with PTSD-ridden Katniss, who has never wanted anything other than to stay alive and protect her loved ones. I always liked the concept that she’s not your average hero; she doesn’t want to be a hero. People have made her into this symbol, but Katniss herself is not the Mockingjay. There’s a lot being said here about propaganda and the ways it is used for good and for evil. Snow has always been about hurting people and breaking them rather than killing them, so it makes sense he’d rather have Peeta and Katniss’ bond be broken than kill the boy. He wants it to hurt. I think emotionally it’s very heavy and unnerving to watch, and they set the mood well from the first ten minutes. They can’t be extremely creative with the visuals here, so it’s very bleak. I think it’s a smart movie, and there’s a lot going on under the surface, and a lot more to come that I don’t feel comfortable speculating on now. ~Spoilers~ Therefore that’s all I’ll say. As usual the acting is superb, on all parts.

Things I didn’t like … well I do think there are ways they could’ve cut it better. I’m not overly convinced it needed to be two movies, I’ll make a judgment on that by the next one. I would’ve liked more Effie and Haymitch, probably because they’re the comedy relief, and boy did it feel like we needed some. I think it went a little long. But I don’t have big criticisms, I feel like I’ll have more to say here at the end. For now, I think the movie was good. Dark, a little too long, but good. There’s so much left to happen, and I look forward to seeing it. I do wish they had ended it right when Peeta almost killed her. That would’ve been something interesting to leave the movie on. But that uncertainty would’ve freaked out some audiences, I get it. I do understand why people feel like this is a waste of time, or that it was unnecessary. I enjoyed it, but since I’m not a huge fan of drawing things out, I agree partly. We’ll see how the next one goes.

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