Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I

Apparently, thousands upon thousands of hours have been spent by various people on trying to create a definitive map of Panem, since author Suzanne Collins didn't provide one. Oversight, or clever marketing strategy? You decide! All I know is that when I went looking for a map because I was curious as to where District 13 had been hiding all this time, no two of them were exactly alike, like snowflakes. I suspect most of them have District 4 all wrong, though, since most maps put it around the Great Lakes, yet the books imply that it's along a salt water coast, which is most definitely not the Great Lakes. But it gives the fans something pretty safe to argue about, I suppose.

Anyway, Jennifer Lawrence of another huge franchise is now the Mockingjay, aka the spokesperson for the rebellion based in District 13. It is nice to see a movie recognize the value of propaganda in war for a change. Plutarch (the late lamented Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is in charge of that, but since Katniss is about as good at acting as I am at shooting arrows, more traditional approaches don't work. So they get a camera crew and director (Natalie Dormer, The Counselor) to follow her around as she travels through Districts 8 and 12, which have been bombed into ruins for daring to suggest that Snow (Donald Sutherland, The Eagle) isn't the best president ever.

But Snow has his own propaganda weapon, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson, Red Dawn), who was nabbed by Capitol troops after the abrupt end of the Quarter Quell games, though honestly Katniss' stuff has better production value and explosions and such. Since the rebellion needs her, she gets Peeta a promise of rescue and a pardon from rebel leader President Coin (Julianne Moore, Carrie), even though Peeta seems to have turned traitor. Imagine if Coin and Snow were both at a party and were introduced as the president. How awkward.

The surviving characters are all here, pretty much -- there's Haymitch (Woody Harrelson, Now You See Me, which apparently has a sequel coming out that I'm already dreading), of course, suffering in the alcohol-free District 13, and even Effie (Elizabeth Banks, Man on a Ledge) is there, suffering equally under the clothing restrictions they also apparently have in place. I didn't recognize her at first. And Finnick and Beetee are still helping out, played by Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman) and Jeffrey Wright (Source Code), respectively.

Anyway, the propaganda wars go back and forth and various skirmishes are fought, but mostly this movie seems like a warm-up for the finale. Quite a good warm-up, mind you, but still not quite up to the standards of movies one and two. Still, it's a solid four out of five. It's a slow process, but Katniss does seem to be growing up a little at last -- she spent less time feeling sorry for herself in this movie, I think, and definitely less time pointing out that she never wanted any of this to happen in the first place, which can only be a good thing. All that's left now is to wait out the year for part two to appear, and hope that the trend continues.

The Mockingjay. There's a neat little animation of this after the credits.


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