An Unsolicited Review of Mockingjay: Part 1

*No spoilers*

It must stink to be a movie critic.

A couple of the reviews I read about Mockingjay said similar things: “Jennifer Lawrence is good enough to elevate a bad movie.” “Katniss is a drama queen, but I guess she’s allowed to be.”

Do critics get to just enjoy movies? Do they get to be entertained just to be entertained? Or do the movies have to have deeper meaning? Do they have to be based on true stories, or have unlikable characters, or end badly in order to be deemed worthy of a critic’s praise?

I am not a movie critic. I am an unabashed fan of The Hunger Games books and movies. If you want to dismiss the books as YA, that’s fine. Likewise with the movies. You read and watch what you want to, and I’ll read and watch what I want to. Cool? Cool.

I was completely sucked into Mockingjay. Edge of my seat. Chills. Reacting to Katniss’s reactions. And I’ve read the books. I know what happens. And I am still utterly captivated by the films.

Each of the actors — not just Jennifer Lawrence — embodies his or her character. Josh Hutcherson is heartbreaking as a slowly falling apart Peeta. Liam Hemsworth plays the wounded, cynical Gale to a T. Julianne Moore is chilling as the ruthless President Coin.

And Elizabeth Banks. Holy cats, that woman can act. As the ineffable, ever-loyal Effie Trinket, she almost steals the movie from Lawrence as far as I’m concerned.

The movie is not a word-for-word adaptation of the book, but it does a heck of a good job at getting at the meat of the action. Lawrence, as Katniss, brings us a reluctant symbol of rebellion. Her first “propo” is a disaster — awkward, badly acted, completely lacking the conviction that President Coin and her allies want from Katniss.

The way Katniss moves from that passionless symbol to the embodiment of the Mockingjay is convincing, to me. The way her allies — Haymitch, Plutarch, Prim, Finnick — get her to assume the mantel that Coin is obviously so hungry for Katniss to take on… it may be a little better done in the movie, because it doesn’t all take place in Katniss’s head.

Suffice it to say I was completely, utterly captivated. So much so, that when I thought the movie ended, I dropped a hissed curse word into a silent theater.

Sorry about that.

Clearly I will be back for the final installment, secure in the knowledge that they can do it again. I’m buying my tee-shirt now.