For Katniss Everdeen and friends, the beginning of the end is just around the bend.
In a little less than two weeks, moviegoers worldwide will put their eyes on "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1," the first installment in the two-part finale of the "Hunger Games" franchise. But some film critics have already seen "Mockingjay" ahead of release, and for the most part, the verdict is the same — it's a winner, even when there are no "Games" in play.
However, most reviews agree that if "Mockingjay" has a serious flaw, it's that it suffers from some "part-one-itis" — in other words, there's a sense of incompletion until it pairs with "Part 2."
Read on for a snapshot of what reviews have to say about "Mockingjay – Part 1":
Where We Begin
"After shooting the fateful arrow that brought the Quarter Quell edition of the Hunger Games to a tumultuous close in 'Catching Fire,' Katniss (Lawrence) was rescued and brought to the ultra-secret District 13, a large, gray-walled subterranean bunker that houses a growing movement bent on uniting the other districts of Panem and overthrowing the Capitol and its totalitarian President Snow (Donald Sutherland, marvelously menacing as ever). The leader of the uprising is the poised, formidable President Coin (Julianne Moore, who seems to have taken hairstyling tips from Meryl Streep in 'The Giver'), who urges Katniss to officially embrace her role as the Mockingjay, the rebellion’s fiery, feathered figurehead. As masterminded by Coin’s media-savvy associate Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman, in his second-to-last bigscreen appearance), Katniss will be sent into the war zone to star in a series of propaganda videos, or 'propos,' designed to go viral (or its nearest Panem equivalent) and further stoke the fires of revolution across the nation." — Justin Chang, Variety
A World Without Games
"If Gary Ross’s first 'Hunger Games' flick benefitted from lunging fast into the arena, 'Catching Fire' repeated the trick and proved it stood repeating. Now that Katniss Everdeen’s revolt at 'Fire’s climax has pushed the future districts into a climate of unrest, countered by state oppression, there are no games to play but political ones. This time, it’s war? Yes, but for unwary viewers expecting the fun stuff of bonkers baboons terrorising teenagers it could just be a bore.
"Even with the pace-dampening burden of time spent on Katniss visiting old haunts, Francis Lawrence makes up for the arena’s absence with punch-packing action jolts. The rebel assault on a dam is 'Lord Of The Rings'-sized. Later, a tense night-time raid on the Capitol successfully splices sprawling effects work with grounding war-movie grit." — Kevin Harley, Total Film
Lawrence of Panem
"It is hard to imagine another young actress who could have played this series' central part as well as Ms. Lawrence, and the good news is that we don't have to. Lawrence is exemplary, and we believe her utterly, no matter how strange or soap-operatic the world around her is. Katniss' simple innocent desires in a dangerous time-- that her friends might live, that her family might live, that she might live -- are not in fact 'simple' or 'innocent' at all. They are heroic, and they are all the more heroic because of their plain-spoken everyday humanity." — James Rocchi, About.com
First Part Syndrome
"'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' is, technically, not a full movie. It’s the first half of the final book of 'The Hunger Games' trilogy adapted to film, but it’s not been adapted in a way that makes it feel like a total experience; this doesn’t feel like the end of a chapter, as a good serialized story should, it feels like the end of a paragraph.
"This is a problem, but it’s not as big a problem as it was with 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1,' which was not only half a movie but was also a profoundly inert half a movie. Much more happens in 'Mockingjay Part 1' than in that wizard movie, and the film actually ramps up to some exciting moments before it suddenly cuts to black." — Devin Faraci, Badass Digest
The Final Word
"It’s very likely that Francis Lawrence’s 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1' is not the movie that you’re expecting. Moving beyond the structure that helped make the first two films in the series so successful – seeing star Katniss Everdeen forced to compete in a deadly competition that pits her against her peers in an arena setting – the new sequel instead takes the franchise themes of revolution and resistance to the next level, taking its characters to war. Rather than struggling with this massive shift, however, the new film simply makes the dystopian world that much more fascinating and exciting, and is ultimately another very successful chapter in the blockbuster series." — Eric Eisenberg, CinemaBlend
"The Hunger Games – Mockingjay: Part 1" arrives on November 21.