HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
HTS Overall Score:90
“The Hunger Games” is one of two things to people. The grandfather of the modern day “young adult” craze of movies (with all the good and bad baggage that connotation brings with it), or else it is just a cheap knockoff of “Battle Royale”. Dystopian future movies have become wildly popular recently, and most importantly they have been taking the young adult genre by storm. We’ve seen a ton of recent ones like “Divergent”, “The Giver” and the like making it to the big scream, but “The Hunger Games” is the only one that seems to have the staying power to become a full powerhouse blockbuster tent pole franchise. It started off with some rather tepid results but quickly found its footing with “Catching Fire”. Now the final book has been split into two parts (as is the craze these days) with “Mockingjay Part 1” being the slower paced one that sets up the final conflict coming this November. Most movies that get split into two pieces tend to be REALLY drawn out and fluffed up (I’m looking at your “Hobbit”, “Twilight: Breaking Dawn” and “Harry Potter”), but “Mockingjay” actually has two separate pieces in the story that makes it ideal for splitting into separate chunks. I think it could have been DONE in one movie as easily as making two, but it flows much smoother than if they had just hacked one storyline into two pieces for monetary reasons (though you can bet your bottom dollar that the split was done for that reason as well).
Last time we saw Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) she had just woken up from an escape of the latest Hunger Games (a game cooked up by the domineering elite of the new world order that pitted children against each other as a distraction to keep the peasants in line), only to find herself in one place that everyone thought was barren. The long since destroyed district 13, which now houses the freedom fighters rebelling against the capital’s regime of terror. While the rest of the districts thought that they were in over their heads, District 13 had gone underground and attracted freedom fighters of all types, waging a war that President Snow and his goons were desperately keeping under wraps so that it could not garner any support from the very upset districts 2-12. Realizing that Katniss was the perfect public figure to bring the rebellion into the spotlight, she has now been revitalized as a former survivalist to speech giving public figure. Rallying the people around her charismatic persona, Katniss swells the troops of the underdogs by leaps and bounds, only to come up against an enemy that she, nor the rest of the rebellion saw coming. Peeta (Josh Hutcherson.
Spouting anti rebellion rhetoric, Peeta is on the air waves trying to undermine every move that Katniss and the rebels make. Soon it becomes clear that Peeta is being used, as the strain and effort that it’s taking to keep his real feelings under wraps surfaces to those who know what to look for. Desperate for an end game movie, President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), of the rebel alliance (I had to say that), orders a rescue mission of Peeta in an effort to take away the capital’s public weapon, and tip the balance in their favor. The only problem is that President Snow has more than a few tricks up his sleeve and turns one enemy into something that Katniss only could dream about in nightmares with an ending that will leave your jaw hanging to the floor (if you haven’t read the books that is).
“The Hunger Games” was not my absolute favorite movie of the year when it debuted, due to too much information being crammed into too little of a running time, but “Catching Fire” was a breath of fresh air as it perfected the flaws that the first movie carried with it in its adaptation of the novel. “Mockingjay Part 1” has the unfortunate flaw of being the slowest part of the three novels. The nonstop action of the first two books isn’t present as its main goal is the setting up of the final conflict. As such the movie is ever so slightly a dip down from the last one. It’s not something that can be changed though, as this is the calm before the storm, so to speak. Katniss has become the Mockingjay finally, her childish dreams of being a nobody and skulking back into obscurity have been scrubbed away, and the fearless leader comes forth. Even though there is not nearly the action as the previous two outings, “Mockingjay” manages to keep a brisk pace going that puts all of the chess pieces into their proper places on the game board. Snow is truly revealed as the monster he is, the Rebels are armed and dangerous, with a following of plebeians to fill out their forces and the playing field is almost even as Katniss, Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) have weakened the behemoth that is the capital to a point that hasn’t been seen for decades.
This time we see a lot more of Katniss, Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and President Coin. This is their movie as they put all the pieces into their proper order. The games are over with and while the rest of the cast is certainly there, they don’t have the screen time that they benefited from during the bloody games. They have become soldiers and not the stars that we knew from 2012. I was sure it was going to happen this way, but I’m actually glad that they omitted all of the sulking and pity parties that the Katniss in the book suffered from. The novels focused on her becoming almost completely unlikeable as they made it very clear that she was suffering from PTSD. Basically a side effect of having to sacrifice so much for the freedom that everyone so desperately desires. That particular plot device may not exactly go over well with the amount of adoration that Jennifer Lawrence is experiencing and would definitely have brought the mood of the film series down a bit. Still, the directors didn’t go overboard and show us a happy happy joy joy version of Katniss either, but still showed the intense pressure she was undergoing and the amount of pain suffered as Peeta was tortured and molded into a weapon of the capital. "Mockingjay Part 1" may not be AS great of a movie that "Catching Fire" was, but it maintains the high levels of quality that the series has showed so far and is a very very worthy addition into any "Hunger Games" fans collection.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=39801[/img]Lionsgate has solid gold in their hands with “The Hunger Games” franchise and you can bet your bottom dollar that they aren’t going to just slop a cheap encode on disc and throw it out to the rabid fans. The 2.39:1 AVC encoded disc is handled with kid gloves and looks superb in just about every way. The glitz and glamour of the capital city and the luscious jungle battle grounds are traded in for a much darker and grim setting in the form of district 13. Underground and riddled with concrete and steel the color palette is appropriately grey and gloomy, however the outside world shows glimpses of bright colors, whether it be the gorgeous array of white roses that Snow uses to taunt Katniss with, or the burnished oranges and reds that accompany the bombing of a hospital. Fine detail is incredible, as you can see very little fiber, nick on a piece of blasted rubble and every curve in Katniss’s Mockingjay uniform. Black levels are inky black and really shine in the detail department, but the one flaw I noticed during the night time raids was that there was some annoying banding in the darkness. It’s not blatant or in the movie a whole lot, but it IS noticeable to the naked eye during the rescue attempt (although it showed up elsewhere if you REALLY know where to look for it).
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=39809[/img]Given the royal treatment, “Mockingjay Part 1” had a theatrical Dolby Atmos mix and this same mix shows up for the home video treatment as well. “The Hunger Games” franchise has always had picture perfect audio tracks and with the inclusion of Atmos on this release the pot only gets sweeter. Dialog is crisp and clear, with vocals being well defined and distinct at all times. The front soundstage is heavily nuances and shows incredibly directionality both in the front, as well as the incredibly immersive use of the surround channels. There’s not a WHOLE lot of action in the movie, but those surrounds are constantly active, with the tings and dings of an underground bunker creaking around Katniss, to the roars of a thousand voices eagerly putting their faith in the young girl. The battle scenes blast you back in your seat with a hailstorm of sonic chaos and the LFE channels is impeccable. Tight, clean, powerful and well aware of when to be present, and when to take a back seat it winds its way through the track and fills it out to complete perfection.
• Audio Commentary with Director Francis Lawrence and Producer Nina Jacobson
• The Mockingjay Lives : The Making of Documentary
• Straight from the Heart : A tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman
• Songs of Rebellion : Lorde on curating the soundtrack
• Lorde “Yellow Flicker Beat” Music video
• Deleted Scenes
• Insurgent Sneak Peek
“Mockingjay Part 1” is the calm before the storm, the movie that sits back and sets up the violence and whirlwind that President Snow and the rest of the elite have reaped for themselves. The lack of frenetic action like the last two movies may come as a bit of a shock to some viewers, but it sets up the last movie much like “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” set up the final confrontation between Voldemort and the minions of light years ago. The movie carries itself at a brisk pace, never making the viewer feel as if the 2 hour and 3 minute runtime is oppressive or too much. The audio and video are off the charts and there is a solid set of extras that should please fans of the series. Now the only caveat is having to wait till the end of the year for the final movie to come out.
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Written by: Peter Craig, Danny Strong
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core), English DD 2.0, Spanish DD 5.1
Runtime: 123 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: March 6th 2015
Buy The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Highly Recommended
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