Back to IndieWire

Review: Not Quite the Expected Action-Packed Thriller, in “Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1” Katniss Struggles to Become the Symbol of a Revolution

Review: Not Quite the Expected Action-Packed Thriller, in "Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1" Katniss Struggles to Become the Symbol of a Revolution

The third film of the wildly popular franchise, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1” has a dark

and ferocious tone, making it increasingly explosive. As the franchise has matured, so has its

subject matter. The narrative is no longer about a girl who stood up for her little sister, but

instead about a young woman who stood against a tyrannical government and its leader.

Rescued from the horrors of the Quarter Quell, the film opens, with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer

Lawrence) in District 13, a world she’d previously thought destroyed by President Snow (Donald

Sutherland) and the Capitol. And yet, despite being forced into hiding, District 13 and its citizens

have not only survived, but thrived. It’s a well-ordered society; led brilliantly and meticulously

by President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore). Without excess or frivolity, District 13 contrasts

sharply with the over-saturated colors and superfluous settings of the Capitol.

So unlike the lush greenery and vast wildlife that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in the

previous films, District 13 is gray and muted. The rigid order of living underground, along with

the confining walls and tunnels of District 13 provide the perfect prison-like backdrop for

Katniss’ uncertainty and uneasiness.

As Katniss battles with her ongoing depression, she finds herself unable to connect with those

around her. She is constantly at the very edge of her sanity, unsure about her decisions and those

of the people surrounding her; especially without Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) who has been a

constant presence in her life since the beginning of The Games. Katniss’ sister, Primrose

(Willow Shields) is the only one that seems to be able to breakthrough to her. Realizing that

Katniss is in the position to make requests, since District 13 is counting on her to become the

Mockingjay, Primrose convinces her to demand that Peeta be rescued from the Capitol.

This film is not at all the action-packed thriller that we’ve become accustomed to in this

franchise. Instead, it’s a slow progression; a psychological analysis of Katniss as she struggles to

become the symbol of a revolution. Continually mistrusting of those around her, terrorized by

President Snow, and manipulated by President Coin, Katniss is obviously a pawn in a much

larger game; one she is not sure that she’s willing to play any longer. The residents of District 13

are unsure of what to make of her. President Coin’s right hand man, Boggs (Mahershala Ali) is

skeptical of Katniss immediately, and remains uncertain that she is the right person to lead the

revolution. Torn between her conscience and the people of Panem, Katniss also finds herself stuck

between her best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and the boy she’s grown to love, Peeta.

Director Francis Lawrence, beautifully constructs a war film around a major facet of war and

revolution: propaganda. After all, how are leaders of revolution born, if not for the way in which

they captivate and mobilize their followers?

Jennifer Lawrence has never been better. She excels

at expressing the trauma, grief and desperation of a reluctant leader; a young woman

manipulated again and again by her circumstances.

The third installment of “The Hunger Games” franchise is extremely gloomy, providing the

audience with only small moments of comedic reprieve from the late Phillips Seymour Hoffman

as Plutarch Heavensbee, and the vivacious Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket. Though the film is

geared toward young adults, it refuses to shy away from the gruesome and horrific images of

war. This is certainly a film adults can get into. The explosions, propaganda techniques, and

unrest are a reminder of a history not entirely out of reach; a world and society all too realistic

for many living today.

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1” is out in theaters this Friday, November 21.

Aramide A Tinubu has her Master’s in Film Studies from Columbia University. She wrote her

thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a

Black Cinema geek and blogger. You can read her blog at:   or

tweet her @midnightrami

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Features and tagged

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox