When I first heard about The Hunger Games I didn't know it was a teen book series. I leave that kind of important information to my fellow geek and avid reader Shumara a.k.a. @Illumeenous and other book geeks like her.
My first thought of the original film was that it must be a Battle Royal rip by the looks of it. But after seeing it I gathered the story had much more going for it. The second installment - CATCHING FIRE, with the introduction of other characters and underlying plots, solidified my understanding that the series was a more complex dystopian future than I first realized.
MOCKINGJAY brought the overall story to a whole new level. The acting and drama were excellent. The story of Katniss stiring the fires of rebellion in the fascist state of Panam matured into a quality political piece which made you forget that this was supposed to be a teen oriented science fiction film.
Hats off to Jennifer Lawrence, who came back to reprise her role with even more gravitas after expanding her filmography in other major Hollywood projects (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle). But, as good as Lawrence was, she did not outshine the rest of the cast including Julianne Moore, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hutcherson and many others. Hutcherson especially delivered a gripping scene in the third act.
Though a seasoned film-goer would probably see a few of the twists coming, the film worked in keeping the story believable through its intense situations and emotional tension. Most of this was done by keeping Katniss in the middle of opposing factions, but also keeping her character genuine in light of the previous films. When you thought Katniss was among friends with the rebels you started to get the feeling that they were only using her to meet their goals. And even though there were plenty of closeups of Katniss and Peta tearing up at each other, and people brainstorming on how Katniss could fan the flames of revolution, the movie had several scenes of life threatening or explosive action. And a personal note: I liked how director Francis Lawrence mirrored the endings of the second and third film with a closeup of Katniss having all the feels of the moment.
Now that I've seen the first part of the final story I can see that the studio wasn't just doing a cash grab for more box office dollars by spitting the third book into two parts. They probably needed two films to expand and complete the story properly. I'm glad they went in that direction because one story might have rushed the plot. But I'm sure they also wanted more money too. It is a business, right?
You can't watch this film by itself. It just wouldn't make sense just dropping you into the middle of it. You have to go back and watch the first two. That's the only drawback to an otherwise great continuation to the story arc. In light of that I give THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY a rating of 4.25 out of 5 COSMIC AFROS.