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Before work yesterday, I had the opportunity to see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 at the movie theater so I jumped at the chance! My local small town movie theater actually had it in three of their seven theaters. Based on how many were there when the first two movies were released, I wasn't all that surprised to see that at all. I went to see the first showing at noon, the doors open half an hour before the first movie starts, and there were already people waiting in their cars for the doors to be unlocked. Good thing we got their early!
By the way, in this review I will figure in all aspects of the movie experience when I rate it. The first strike against them was that the server was down at the box office so unfortunately I couldn't use my gift card to purchase my ticket or my popcorn. Luckily, we were the third group to enter the theater, so we were able to get really good seats. By the time the movie started playing, the theater was nearly full. Before previews and the movie starts up they'll always show these pre-flix, this time we could hear the sound but there was no picture. It turned out that the bulb was burned out on the projector they're shown with, or something. Then, when the trailers began playing, we had picture but no sound for about a minute, but they got things fixed very quickly for us. The trailers we saw were for Mortdecai with Johnny Depp and Ewan McGregor, The Age of Adaline with Blake Lively and Harrison Ford, and Insurgent with Shailene Woodley and Theo James. I definitely want to see Mortdecai and Insurgent (that teaser was visually stunning but I would have prefered to see actual footage...). The Age of Adaline looks like it could be promising, but I could have done without that voice over.
Now on to my thoughts the movie itself (without spoilers):
To begin with, I wasn't sure what to think about dividing Mockingjay into two parts, especially since Mockingjay wasn't my favorite of the trilogy; Catching Fire takes that honor. But I had high hopes since the movie's coming from the same director and same talented cast, plus some fantastic new additions. Liam Hemsworth gets to shine as Gale, and although Peeta doesn't have a whole lot of screen time, you can't take your eyes off Josh Hutcherson when he does appear. Again Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic as Katniss. Overall, I say they did remarkably well adapting the first part of the final book for the big screen.
The tone of this film is quite a bit darker than it's predecessors. The internal, psychological conflict Katniss faces definitely comes forward on screen. There isn't as much action as the previous installments, but we do have a few pretty well-done action-y sequences. The film features a good deal of exposition and we learn, along with the characters a good deal about District 13, President Coin and Plutarch Heavensbee, and their plan for the Mockingjay in the revolution. The director does a great job of showing us the conflict between District 13 and the Capital, plus everyone caught in the middle.
Even though I wouldn't say this film is as strong as it's predecessors, since it primarily works to set up the final part of the story (it ends right in the middle of it - I don't want to wait another year to see the rest!) , but I was pleased to see that the director is very faithful to the spirit of the story. In part one, he really has the opportunity to draw out the details of the source material in a way that really enhances the entire experience for the big screen. I would also like to say that I love the soundtrack of each movie, and this is no exception.
I only had a couple of issues with the movie. There were a few moments where it felt like it was dragging (perhaps all of that exposition) in comparison to previous the first two films. My other issues goes back to the book. I never really cared for the idea that Katniss becomes more of a passive figure, I mean I understand why it happens in terms of the book and now movie, but that aspect has always sort of bothered me to a degree.
Finally, I highly recommend seeing the Mockingjay, Part 1 in the theater. It's quite an experience. Now we just have to wait another year for the conclusion, which should promise to be rather thrilling.