Brandon's Corner: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 Review *Spoiler Free*

1416428214275*The last paragraph expresses short analysis* It is hard to find many people that are bigger Hunger Games film fanatics than myself. I live and breathe these films. That being said – I'm going to be brutally honest right out of the gate for a second - $#!+, I was a little disappointed with Mockingjay. Yes, I know you'll immediately, go to saying that I am a film critic, and that I can't just enjoy a film for what it is. Not so true. I don't consider the first Hunger Games film a masterpiece, or even close, but I love it with every bone in my body nonetheless. Don't get me wrong, I really like this next instalment, but things need to be said.

Let's be positive for a bit. In terms of purely, brilliant moments, and glimmers of absolute emotional gravitas, I think this film surpasses the first two. Over time, this is probably a film I will learn to love. However, with that out of the way, I need to go to the flaws immediately to get them out of my system. First, there is the exposition. It clangs and resounds in the most unpleasant way throughout the film. Luckily, these moments are very brief, but when they are there they are definitely hard to stomach. Then there is the humor. This one might be forgiven upon second viewing, but upon first glance it is contrived and incredibly forced in a few of the lines.

Ughhh. . .I hate myself for saying these flaws already. It is not that they are so much glaring ones, as there is so many of them. Small moments with Gale don't quite click, The pacing isn't quite there, and the story at times feels overly formulaic.

140807_h04dThe saving grace of this film though is Katniss Everdeen (my future wife. . . yeah right! Oh, I'm pathetic). Jennifer Lawrence truly is a tour-de-force in these films, and never more so than here. If the Academy Awards doesn't nominate her, so help me!!!. . . just joking. I already know the Academy is not going to nominate her because they are a bunch of jokes when it comes to nominating performances in these types of films. It's sad, but true.

Plutarch Heavensbee, played by the late and great Philip Seymour Hoffman, is also fantastic, along with a whole host of other characters played brilliantly, including but not limited to Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Claflin. The newest two of the bunch, Julian Moore and Natalie Dormer playing President Snow and Cressida are especially good as well and show that just because a film is based off a YA book doesn't mean that you can't have some of the best in the business.

Then there is Josh Hutherson – he is absolutely, completely compelling with what little screen time he does have. Sadly, he is not going to receive much buzz for his performance, because his character is *minor spoiler* digitally enhanced to appear skinnier. If he would have gone full method acting, I actually might have been angry when he wouldn't be nominated, which he won't be already. Though, I can understand why he didn't go through the weight loss in real life. That type of dedication is dangerous, particularly since the two Mockinjay films were filmed back to back, making that type of commitment nearly impossible due to his weight fluctuation in the story.

the-hunger-games_mockingjay_part-1_character-still_peetaWhere this film also excels is in showcasing a gritty realism, and brutality rarely seen in PG-13 counterparts. War is horrific, and Mockingjay - Part 1 delivers this. The smallest of moments, it feels a little forced, which I'll attribute to a few bad lines of exposition and poor emotional delivery at times from certain characters. That aside, Mockingjay - Part 1 has some of the most gut-wrenchingly real moments you'll see in cinema. The characters are so raw and real, with added punch of overwhelmingly powerful music, that you can't help but fall into the grand scheme of emotional manipulation the film has (as almost all films throughout History have). It is praise-worthy and shows that the director Francis Lawrence knows what he is doing, even if he is working off of the least stellar of the Hunger Games books.

It is the emotional depth and the beautiful performances that drive the character development in this grand overarching story. Mockingjay, along with all the other films in the series, is a character driven drama. If you go in expecting something along the lines of an in-your-face, action thriller, I would expect that you would walk out of the film disappointed. I also would advise against expecting The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 to be a great self contained story. What it is, is half a story, which makes it half a film. This could be frustrating, but if you expect this going in, the ending is much easier to swallow. So, is it worth seeing in theatres? Yes - If only for Jennifer Lawrence's bloody brilliant performance, it is worth seeing. However, don't expect the brilliance and replay factor of Catching Fire. What we have is something more akin to the first Games, which I'll gladly take instead of say an achingly disappointing third film (I'm talking to you, X-Men: The Last Stand, and Spider-Man 3).

Personal Preference: 4/5

Critical Analysis: 3.5/5