Picking up right where the second saga in The Hunger Games trilogy left off, the first part of what was adapted as the final and epic conclusion, was again something I dawdled seeing. As is my usual standard, I picked up a DVD on its release week and these many months later, on the eve of “part 2” and its debut, I finally sat down to watch this one.  

The games have destroyed Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence). She is shattered and broken by what she saw and did. Leaving Peeta behind has been her undoing. This is why when she recoups in District 13, she desperately awaits news of Peeta’s survival. No news comes. What does come is 13’s President Coin (Julianne Moore), wanting to recruit Katniss as their Mockingjay, the face of their revolution.  

Together with Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Katniss sparks a change in the surviving districts that incites revolution in all their hearts. Joining their fight is the equally broken Finnick (Sam Claflin) and a handful of 13’s residents including newcomer Cressida (Natalie Dormer), who is hired to produce Katniss’ propo’s, and then there is Effie (Elizabeth Banks). Returning, she follows Katniss around to again ensure she looks the part. Everything is going according to plan until a news broadcast reveals that Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) is in fact, still alive and he’s being used as President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and the Capital’s weapon against Katniss. 
As every review I’ve written for this series documents, I enjoy a love-hate relationship with this series. The premise of this is so frightening and to see the act of young people fighting just for a hierarchy’s personal pleasure never sat well with me. After reading one book and seeing three movies, my opinion that the films are better than the books remains unchanegd. The story here is no different. It’s freaking fantastic and could even be the best in the franchise to date (at this writing, “part two” is still a few hours away so I’ve not had a chance to see it).  

Everything about this production is blockbuster movie perfection. There is fantabulous costuming and no matter my personal opinion, the layers to this world-building are intricate and complex. That’s to say nothing of the cast which is sensational. I really liked all of the new faces and the actors who played them including Cressida and Coin. The leading men continue to impress though I was most delighted to feel more about Gale in this film; he’d been too insignificant for me in the prior outings. Here, he’s a living, breathing character who I genuinely felt a roller-coaster of emotions for, not the least of which was his unrequited love. Then there is Josh as Peeta, who gives a startling performance despite his limited screen time. 

All of these performances are anchored by the supremely talented Jennifer Lawrence. The girl again proves she can take origin material and make this character something altogether different. Her Katniss summons so much more than Book Katniss ever did. The movies have gone through different directors and writers, but through it all, they somehow each compliment their counterparts, strengthening as they move along. The filmmaking in this is unusually effective. Overlapping many scenes are voiceovers and sharp cuts to the tense, action scenes unfolding yet they're all used to the great advantage of “Story,” or in other words, the editing and filming of this is, plainly put, dazzling.  

Though more could be said, the thrust of everything I have to say circles back to one thing: fans of this franchise are missing out if you’re putting off seeing these films. I had nearly reached the halfway mark in the book when watching this (which is approximately what this film does span) and was innately impressed with this both as a film and an adaptation. Everything was molded and shaped into this, and because of that, I think these deserve any and all adoration they receive as versions of a universally loved young adult series. All that said and I’ve really said nothing everyone else hasn’t said a million times prior. But know this: Mockingjay is an excellent book-to-film adaptation and if you’re not into reading, it’s a great production on its own. Only be warned, if you’re not a theater goer, don’t watch this one yet. That ending is sure to not only make you tear up, but startle you back to reality when you realize the end is as shocking as it is quiet.  

(Violence and the illusion to torture are the primary reasons for the PG13 rating; there are multiple casualties as districts make a stand and are murdered by Capitol soldiers.)