The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part One, directed by Francis Lawrence, is the third installment in the popular franchise which is based on books written by Suzanne Collins. The movie stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Sam Claflin, Jenna Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Natalie Dormer, and Elizabeth Banks.
The Mockingjay story picks up shortly after the events of the previous film which left off with a stunned and exhausted Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) being whisked out of the Hunger Games arena by a group of resistance fighters. Taken to the hidden District 13 and brought back to health, Katniss is given the opportunity by District 13's President Coin (Moore) and former Panem Secretary of Communications Plutarch Heavensbee (Hoffman) to lead the rebellion against the capitol and it's ruler, President Snow (Sutherland).
As the population of Panem is thrown further and further into war, the leaders of each side begin a delicate game of political intrigue and campaigning for public opinion. Meanwhile, Katniss must accept the fact that the life she once knew has been literally blown apart and the people she most cares about are either gone or in danger of being taken from her. It's only when she discovers that her former Hunger Games partner and love interest Peeta Mellark (Hitcherson) has also survived the last arena battle that she decides to join the fight in hopes of seeing him safely taken out of captivity.
To me, this was a very interesting movie for a lot of different reasons. First and foremost, I was happy to not be watching the same story over again like the first two. Mockingjay really opens things up by taking the action out of the arena and showing us more of what Panem is all about. Don't get me wrong, I liked the arena stuff, but I felt like the first two movies were pretty much the same. Even with an expanded landscape, there was actually a lot less action as the third book really seems to dive more into the political arena where closed door meetings and strategy sessions take precedence over arrows to the face. Again, not necessarily a bad thing but honestly, not a lot happens and I felt like most of the story was just there to lead the audience into the more exciting part 2.
One thing I have always thought to be true about this series is that the casting of just about every character has been spot on perfect. I know the initial announcement of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss was a bit controversial, but she has really owned the part and I really couldn't see anyone else in the role. Other standouts who continue to shine in Mockingjay are Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, and especially Elizabeth Banks who plays what might be my favorite character in the entire saga, Effie Trinket. She does so much with the limited amount of time she is given on screen and I absolutely love where she has taken the character in this installment.
I will say The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 is a solid entry into the series and I really did like it, although it's basically a transition into the final chapter and would never be looked at as a stand alone story. While I don't have a problem with movie studios trying to make more money by splitting novel adaptations into two parts, I would encourage them to make sure that a quality product is given to the audience to justify the extra effort. Ultimately, this movie is sort of a take it or leave it type of deal and doesn't really do a lot as far as character development or story progression. There are some fun moments and the bits of action are pretty awesome, but it definitely left me wanting more.