(PHOTO CREDIT: MCT CAMPUS)
Jennifer Lawrence, above, is known for playing Katniss Everdeen, but took home her first Oscar Award two years ago for her role as Tiffany Maxwell in “Silver Linings Playbook.” (PHOTO CREDIT: TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE)

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1” is, technically speaking, not a complete movie. It is the first half of the film adaptation of the final book in the trilogy of novels that has now been spread into four movies.

While this tells you upfront that you are not getting a full story with the newest film, “Mockingjay, Part 1” is the most rewarding and well-crafted film of the series so far.

After Katniss’, played by Jennifer Lawrence, act of rebellion towards the capital at the end of “Catching Fire,” she wakes up in the once thought to be abandoned District 13 in the care of Plutarch Heavensbee, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman and President Coin, played by Julianne Moore. The nation has broken into full-blown rebellion and everyone is looking for Katniss to embrace her role as the “Mockingjay” in order to unite the districts against the capital.

Meanwhile, Peeta, played by Josh Hutcherson, who was left behind in the arena last film, is left at the mercy and torture of The Capitol, who use him in their own PR campaign to shut down the impending civil war.

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This means that the latest installment in the series is a much more personal story, losing the fun factor of the actual Hunger Games in order to reward two films’ worth of character development and world-building. All of the returning actors reach new nuances to their roles, especially Lawrence and Hutcherson, and have to represent an entire political position through their acting.

The supporting cast of Woody Harrelson, Sam Claflin and newcomer Natalie Dormer all bring a level of charm to the tonally dark film.

But the biggest winner in the film is Liam Hemsworth, who has made millions off of this franchise for contributing absolutely nothing for three films now.

The Hunger Games, as a franchise, has always had a very interesting class and political undertone that was usually pushed aside by the previous two films in  favor of glorifying a set-love story and the actual games.

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“Mockingjay, Part 1” rectifies this issue by sure that politics of war and rebellion are at the front and center of the film. This is easily the best part of the film, as watching the political machinations going on behind the scenes of a post-media propaganda war juxtaposed against riots and oppression of the districts is really captivating stuff.

It is cold, calculating and a very powerful look into modern-day war efforts.

However, while all of this makes for a really powerful story and provides much needed character resolutions, it does not necessarily make for an impressive cinematic experience.

While the previous two films have a plethora of problems, at least they were visually exciting with some fun set pieces. “Mockingjay, Part 1” has only three set pieces—surprisingly, Katniss is only in one of them.

The film has some truly great shot composition though, as every scene highlights the sheer size and power of The Capitol compared to the guerrilla nature of the rebellion. Still, even with these beautiful scenes, the film is just boring to look at.

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All sense of energy has been sapped out of the film due to a color palette that seems to only consist of grey and brown. Every shot starts to blur together, making for a visually boring experience. It all just serves as a reminder that “Mockingjay, Part 1” is ultimately a filler movie to tide us over until next year.

“Mockingjay, Part 1” is a divisive film. There is a large tonal shift from the previous two films that will leave old fans ajar. Still, the more focused story, great returning cast and brilliant political machine running throughout the film not only makes “Mockingjay, Part 1” the best in the series so far, but an emotionally powerful film in general. This is what the Games have been building up to, and I cannot wait for the conclusion.

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