Hunger Games 3, AKA Mockingjay burst upon us at the theaters last week ready to storm box office's nationwide complete with a ready-made fan base and an Oscar winning star at its helm. Who can complain about Hollywood's darling Jennifer Lawrence in the role that shot her to super-stardom as Katniss Everdeen. She's the reluctant hero who's managed to survive the ultimate reality show (twice) to become the inspiration for a repressed people and Catalyst of Hope for an emerging rebel resistance.

Catching Fire left us with Katniss, who, in a last desperate maneuver destroyed the arena of the 75th Hunger Games and was rescued/deposited on a ship headed towards the mythical District 13. Mockingjay picks up with Katniss recovering in the thriving District's sub level hospital and wrestling for her sanity after the Quarter Quell, while grappling with Peeta’s capture. Her rest is to be short-lived, because rebel leader, President Coin needs her to step up as a rallying point to give a voice to the resistance. Coin and Heavensbee's plot for insurrection is nearing its zenith, and they must convince the emotionally distraught girl to rise above the loss of her friends, home and district to take up the gauntlet thrown in her path.

The cast of the previous renditions returned for this installment; Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Stanley Tucci, and are joined by cast newcomer, Julianne Moore as President Coin. Allow me to start with all the things I missed in Mockingjay. I sorely missed Effie Trinket’s over-the-top costumes and effervescent personality, mindlessly bumbling foolishness across an otherwise dark script. Banks did get to splatter a few jokes into the mix, but it wasn’t enough to lift the greyness of the story. Then, there was Harrelson’s turn as the devil-may-care drunk living his life from the bottom of a bottle – gone! Okay, and my last whine was the deplorable loss of Caesar Flickerman’s flamboyant bromance with himself that sizzled the screen in the earlier installments. I realize that this part of the story takes on a darker tone, but that didn’t keep me from missing the comic relief their characters added brightening the grimness of the story, (just saying).

Julianne Moore personified the zipped up President Coin, leaping off the pages of the book complete with her perfectly cut tresses and stoic personality. Although the book gives the reason for this, it is not mentioned in the film which leaves the character looking somewhat flat on screen. Thank God that Lawrence brought it again, by upping the ante this time with a slightly-shy-of-lunatic performance coupled with gritty desperation. You wanted to root for this young woman with the diehard sense of loyalty and an authenticity that just oozed from her sufferings. This Oscar winning actress proved again that her tender shoulders are sufficient to carry a story. Gale (played by the not-hard-to-look-at Hemsworth) side-kicked his way through the picture becoming more shadow than substance in the plot, due to Katniss’ obsession with Peeta. In fact (besides Katniss), it was Peeta’s character which sparked my greatest interest, since it allowed Hutcherson to spread his acting wings in a plethora of emotional range. This is especially true in the last thirty riveting seconds of the film.

The movie stuck fairly closely to the book, but the inner thoughts of the main character that work well on paper don't translate onto the big screen. Call me spoiled by the action/adventure tones of the previous renderings; but, I hoped that, for once, a director, (in this case Francis Lawrence) had taken a little more artistic license to stimulate the content and not been as keen to replicate the book. After seeing it twice, I was still unable to muster up any excitement for this installment's lackluster edition. It came across as a story in limbo; probably because the previous films were each based on an entire book, whereas, Mockingjay was split into two parts. A sequel for the sake of a sequel always sounds more like a Hollywood cash register to me. There were a few memorable moments scattered throughout, such as the heroine's visit to a local District 8 hospital, and the rumblings of the Districts as they realize their hour to make a stand has come.  Yet and still, Mockingjay had the feel of an in-between story that dragged in some places with a lingering grayness around the edges, brushing lightly with depression. 

That being said, there was enough material in place to feed the die-hard HG fans, and I have no doubt that Mockingjay will rake in the box office dollars. Of course I'd be lying to say I wasn't looking forward to the final portion of this quadrilogy, (yep, it’s a word); and what is sure to be the dramatic conclusion of the Hunger Games saga.


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