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Article by Teddy Durgin

Mockingjay - Part 1 is one half of what will hopefully be a good movie... someday

"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1" is, by its title and big studio marketing plan, half a movie. So, part of me feels like, "Screw you half-movie! I'm gonna write half a review!" But I won't, mostly because I have too much to bitch about. I really liked the first "Hunger Games" flick, which rather smartly and efficiently set up this dystopian world in which teens compete in elaborate survival games for the amusement of the masses. I then completely bought into the action-packed second film, subtitled "Catching Fire," which upped both the personal stakes for its lead characters and the emotional intensity of the overall story arc."Mockingjay - Part 1," by comparison, is a strangely hesitant piece of work. This time out, everything is mired in "Nope, we can't go there! Save it for 'Part 2!'" I'll be honest, folks. I'm getting older. I'd had a long, LONG day of writing and editing leading up to my recent preview screening of this. And, at one point, I nodded off. I don't think it was for very long ... but it was long enough. And I snapped back into consciousness with one of those embarrassing jolt-shudders, and I instinctively blurted out, "What did I miss?!" The critic next to me muttered, "Jennifer Lawrence is struggling with whether to become a revolutionary leader." I replied, "Oh thanks." Then added, "But that's what she was doing when I nodded off a few minutes ago." And he said with gritted teeth and a small sigh, "That's what she was doing three hours and two films ago!" The bitter man did have a point. You know Katniss Everdeen is going to finally cast off her figurehead status and actually lead the rebel districts against the forces of the evil, totalitarian Capitol ... er, at least I hope she does in "Part 2." I haven't actually read the books and am trying to remain spoiler-free. If she doesn't? Er, what the hell did I just waste nearly 7 hours and three films watching?! Directed by Francis Lawrence, "Mockingjay - Part 1" finds Katniss safely hidden in District 13 under the protection of rebel President Coin (Julianne Moore). She has destroyed the Hunger Games forever in "Catching Fire," but it's cost her Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), who she fell in love with and who is now being used as a pawn of the tyrannical President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Much of the story has Katniss hunkered down in an underground bunker being told constantly she will be the difference in the War, but crying over Peeta almost to the point of paralysis. And every time her character starts to gain a little momentum -- every time she leaves the safe confines of District 13 for motivational trips to other Districts to see the destruction and death The Capitol has wrought -- Snow puts a seemingly brainwashed Peeta on national TV, and it's back to Katniss refusing to champion rebellion again, yelling "I can't do this!" and just crying, "Peeta! Peeta! We have to save Peeta!" A mission to save the guy IS eventually mounted, but it happens without Katniss. She stays behind to lament some more. The sequence is actually a well-staged, tense one that strangely climaxes off-screen. But the outcome does result in a legitimately disturbing climax that finally gives the story some dramatic momentum that propels everyone involved into "Part 2." "Mockingjay - Part 1" is not a good movie. It's basically two hours and five minutes of set-up and probably could have been told cinematically in one hour. But I'm giving it a reluctant, "Yeah, if you saw the others, you gotta see this one, too" pass for now, because the first two films were so strong and I think there is enormous potential here for a great conclusion.

"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, disturbing images and thematic material.


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