This is one of those cases where the answer is [SPOILER] yes. You’re probably seeing this movie no matter what I write here, but that’s ok. The film will make approximately a gagillion dollars. But we still must answer the questions.
Should I pay to see it?
A question that requires more thought than one might think. Yes, the desolation and war of the film is best viewed on a big screen, but one must also consider the filleryness (It’s a word now!) of the movie. As you know, this is only the first half of the series’ conclusion, with the true finale sadly not coming until next November. As a result, even the tensest moments of Part 1 feel like a tease. Now as far as teases go, the film does succeed. It introduces fascinating new characters (Julianne Moore as President Alma Coin) and builds up the suspense for what is sure to be an excellent final film. Jennifer Lawrence continues to shine as Katniss, and Liam Hemsworth steps up his game in a more pronounced role, but every action-packed moment points to larger events outside the scope of this preliminary story. Lawrence especially works your emotions, firing up citizens of demolished districts with soulful speech and song. Besides showing off J-Law’s pipes, that song marks arguably the most memorable scene in the series to this point. Even here, though, the incredible moment of rebellion only hints at the greater movements yet to come. Based on merit and excitement, of course it’s worth watching the film in a theater. Just remember you’ll have to watch it again before the final chapter arrives next fall.
Could I watch it with a date?
More so than its predecessors, Mockingjay will not make for a good, light watch. This is a war movie. Director Francis Lawrence does not shy away from death and destruction, gunning down rebels and revealing the bodies of those already condemned. Fun still exists in smaller doses, especially when Woody Harrelson’s Haymitch or Elizabeth Banks’ Effie appear, but for the most part we get an angry, somber Katniss and the sternness of Coin and District 13. We see madness and deception, darkness and fear, more than redemption or its relatives. Donald Sutherland’s President Snow invades the districts with his telecasts and terrifies them with public executions. Even when Katniss and her allies make actions towards progress, they come with significant costs. Regardless of the fact that just about every viewer can deduce that Katniss will (believe it or not) make it to the final movie, each scene feels tense and each obstacle potentially lethal. Lawrence’s direction and James Newton Howard’s score get your heart pounding and ready for a fight that refuses to arrive.
All that being said, all people are different, but chances are that between Lawrence, Hemsworth, and Sam Claflin there exists at least some crush material for you and/or your date. The people may still be pretty, but the story is all grit and gore, as circumstances necessitate.
Could I watch it with my mother?
Once again, that depends on how you and mother spend your time. This is not a film for the faint of heart or attention. Before I go on, I should highlight an important part of the movie. FULTON REED IS IN IT. Moving on!
Splitting the final book of the series into two films makes it difficult for Part 1 to find a rhythm or ethos. Without knowing how the revolution will take full form and how Katniss will act, we can only revel in the cruelty of the Capital and the steadfastness of its enemies. So much of this chapter focuses on the internal turmoil of Katniss, Peeta, and those around them, but the guidelines of blockbuster films call for excesses of explosions and covert operations. At times it feels like we aren’t receiving enough information about Katniss’ thoughts to be able to understand her actions. She is, of course, supposed to be a rather closed-off hero, allowing her actions and survival to speak louder than her concise words. Nevertheless, this film sets the stage for a war in which Katniss will be the key. Setting this stage requires her to take a backseat to the action outside of District 13. That’s all well and good, but The Hunger Games work best when Katniss is doing badass things with a bow and arrow or thinking on the fly.
For now (and it is just for now), she’s held back in immense anticipation, and so are we.
images via IMDb