Mockingjay takes flight, helped by Howard’s superb score

By Preman Koshar, Layout Assistant||

The third installment of the Hunger Games series, “Mockingjay: Part I,” swoops in quietly, much like its namesake, and reiterates everything the book did wrong. This time, however, there is a gifted director and crew to save it to the best of their abilities.

The film, directed by Francis Lawrence, continues telling the story of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), after she is rescued from the Games and escorted to District 13 (which isn’t supposed to exist). Alas, some of her friends, along with her whiny cake decorator — oops, I meant one true love — Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) get left behind and are tortured by the Capitol. This proceeds to unleash all sorts of untold and completely unnecessary drama; erstwhile the Capitol bombs and massacres everyone who ever looked at them funny. The evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland) claims to be “moving chess pieces,” yet killing the masses is almost never a good idea in terms of securing power and stifling rebellion. His intelligence is questionable, and this undermines him as a threat. And besides a few action-filled bombing and rebellion scenes, the only major plot point is a detailed rescue mission that was only briefly discussed in the book. It is, suffice to say, disappointing.

The cinematography of “Mockingjay,” however, is surprisingly well done for an action film. While it isn’t going to win any awards, it is a step above most action flicks — a rarity for a series. The acting, particularly by Lawrence, is also above average. Her performance can come across as a stereotypical heroine, but a closer look reveals that her character is deeper and her acting more skilled than an average teenage protagonist. Within the two-hour-and-three-minute running time, I saw her be angry, sad, happy, vengeful, relieved, confused, and desperate. Few characters ever show anything close to that range of emotion.

The score, however, is the film’s high point. It is never obtrusive, nor unobtrusive. It ranges from intense action-ready pieces to Katniss’ quiet and soulful song that becomes a mantra for rebels throughout Panem. It is always perfectly timed and jibes with the scenes fluidly. The dialogue is not disappointing, but it is also not remarkable in any way. The plot is the downfall of “Mockingjay.” This is due to the book off of which it is based. I have read the book, and it is slow, too caught up in personal dynamics, and, in the end, too concise with what matters.

The director, Francis Lawrence, can only do so much with this. The first half of the book, and ergo the film, consists mostly of Katniss’ internal thoughts and dilemmas, most of which are deliberated over unnecessarily. The first half of the book is, to put it bluntly, boring. I think that Francis Lawrence did the best that he could with what he had. I was genuinely surprised that I enjoyed the film, and that the plot was really the only major flaw.

“The Hunger Games, Mockingjay: Part I” is well directed, well acted, well scored, and has excellent cinematography for a blockbuster action flick. But that ultimately doesn’t matter all that much, because the plot stinks. This is not the director’s, or anyone else involved with the movie’s fault. This is the fault of the author of the book series, Suzanne Collins. Those who have read the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy truly understand how not to wrap up a series. The final book is, quite simply, a disgrace. This is especially disappointing as the first two books were top-notch. But nonetheless, a decent movie has emerged from Collins’ ashes. This installment of The Hunger Games should not be entitled “Mockingjay”— it seems to be more of a “Phoenix” to me.

First-year Preman Koshar is a layour assistant. His email is pkoshar@fandm.edu

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