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Dark, enveloping and increasingly smart, Mockingjay Part I proves the… More Dark, enveloping and increasingly smart, Mockingjay Part I proves the resilient nature of the series, underscoring what makes it work, and promising a formidable finale to come. It's a film of new direction, with Katniss now living with the aftermath of the Hunger Games end, being taken under the reluctant wing of the rebellion and its gruff, yet formidable leader, President Coin (Julianne Moore). What follows is a different sort of role for Katniss, whose fortitude and passion for the cause clash against her will to free her friend Peeta, being used helplessly as a tool for the nefarious President Snow. Like the previous installments, Mockingjay is anchored by its strong performances from the entire cast. Again headlined by Jennifer Lawrence, we see her in a more torn role than the previous installments, more vulnerable, shakable, and questioning. She embodies this all, while still maintaining the stoic tenacity that makes her so endearing, and makes the series so likable. This is matched well by the supporting cast, especially Julianne Moore and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. The direction by Francis Lawrence shows skill, weaving a story that is much-less action packed than the previous installments, yet to good effect. He builds tension through concentration on the characters and the narrative itself, not through sensory overload. The visuals are strong, and the overall world building is on par with the previous films. My one major criticism of Mockingjay can be true of all the Hunger Games. The characterization of President Snow is too one-note. He is simply nefarious, with no real subtlety. Yes, there are allusions to more complexity, yet it is never shown. We see flawed protagonists, yet the franchise fails to paint the same complexity with its main antagonist. This simplicity is shown in the regime's overall machinations, such as the absurd way it policies its populace, touting guns to march unwilling citizens to forced labor. One would think more sophisticated methods of control would be employed and thus shown. At times this results in a manipulative feel, telegraphing its intentions to hate Snow and all he represents, rather than conveying this organically. All in all, a solid installment. 3.5/5 Stars
22 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes