The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part One, rated PG-13

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks

Austin Family critical rating: 4 of 5 stars

Austin Family family-friendly rating: 4 of 5 stars

As The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part One ends, we see the following onscreen: “In loving memory of Philip Seymour Hoffman.” It’s a lovely tribute to Mr. Hoffman and keeps in spirit with a franchise that has consistently cast some of the best working actors around. Hoffman’s excellent work in Mockingjay – both in Part One and Part Two, which opens later in 2015 – will stand as his final performance.

Mockingjay – Part One has a good eye for the manufacturing of political propaganda and how both sides – both the rebels in the various Districts and the leaders at the Capitol – manipulate images and people for their own purposes. The film picks up where its predecessor, Catching Fire, left off, as President Coin (Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Hoffman) aim to convince Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) to be the face of the rebellion. Meanwhile, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), separated from Katniss after the fall of the last Hunger Games, is brainwashed by President Snow (Sutherland) to crush the rebels.

Perhaps it’s due to the lack of an actual Hunger Games competition in the film, but Mockingjay helped me understand the geography of the districts (and this world in general) better than the previous films. It’s also striking to see how attentive and respectful large audiences are to good drama – not action – when it comes in the context of a beloved book adaptation/franchise. If only mass audiences would give the same attention and respect to equally involving dramas that seem to be at a disadvantage simply because they don’t occur in a franchise universe.

 Jack Kyser is a graduate of Austin High School and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

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