‘Hunger Games’ finale begins on a stylish, disappointing start

I had never felt such a mixture of genuine excitement or imminent disappointment than before attending “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part One” last Friday.

My excitement stemmed from the fact that, walking into the theater, I was about to see the latest installment of “The Hunger Games” – a trilogy of novels and quadrilogy of feature-length films that have garnered mass attention and increasing fandom over the past few years.

Though I can’t speak to whether the films have accurately portrayed the novels, I will say that both of “Mockingjay’s” cinematic predecessors were some of the smartest, most gripping examples of mainstream filmmaking in recent memory.

Despite either film’s flaws, however, the “Hunger Games” series has proven to be a much more substantial alternative to conventional popcorn entertainment, especially in comparison to whatever Michael Bay explosion/misogyny orgy is currently playing at your local multiplex.

Regardless, any attempt at salvaging my movie-going experience was squashed when I read the second half the film’s title – “part one.” Unfortunately, it seems that “The Hunger Games” series has taken a liking to the shallow corporate practice of dividing its final installment into two films

While this isn’t necessarily a deal breaker for most films that do this (see the splitting of the mammoth 759 page “Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows”), the result of “Mockingjay” ends up feeling cheap and unnecessary.

However, even with “Mockingjay, Pt. 1” acting as a placeholder in the “Hunger Games” series, the question still remains: Are there any redeeming factors that make the film worth seeing regardless? Well, sort of.

What still works well about the series of films are the performances and overall style, no matter which section of the novels is being covered.

Jennifer Lawrence is still thoroughly impressive as Katniss Everdeen, the series’ supremely confident, yet emotionally damaged, heroine. Furthermore, the film’s supporting cast still stands supreme – particularly Elizabeth Banks as a more reserved Effie Trinket and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee.

Additionally, despite the film’s flaws, director Francis Lawrence (“Catching Fire,” “I Am Legend”) never feels the need to rush the story or compromise any artistic integrity in the process. In fact, much of the first half is not only spent establishing characters and environments, but mood and style, as well.

The film features an appropriate mix of high-intensity action sequences, as well as many softer, quieter moments, making for an overall well-rounded film-going experience.

Regardless, the film’s method of milking the most out of its franchise deservedly knocks a star or so off its final score.

What makes the film a modest disappointment is that, even through the typical means of using two films to exploit a financial possibility, the film doesn’t utilize the source material to its full potential.

Though there’s little doubt in my mind that the film will feel a little more appropriate once its latter half is released next November, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the film’s current existence is one partially driven by greed and frivolity.

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