'Hunger Games: Mockingjay' Opens Where 'Catching Fire' Ended The final novel of the trilogy has been cut into two pictures. This one is a placeholder film. It exists to smooth the transition from its successful predecessors to a glorious concluding part.
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'Hunger Games: Mockingjay' Opens Where 'Catching Fire' Ended

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'Hunger Games: Mockingjay' Opens Where 'Catching Fire' Ended

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'Hunger Games: Mockingjay' Opens Where 'Catching Fire' Ended

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The debate will continue during Thanksgiving week and beyond, but some people will give themselves a break with a movie that makes our political debates seem tame. Kenneth Turan reviews the latest in "The Hunger Games" series.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1" is an elaborate title for a film that's too minimal, literally by half. The final novel of the trilogy has been cut into two pictures. This one is, by definition, a placeholder film - a movie that exists not for itself but to smooth the transition from its successful predecessors to a glorious concluding part due in theaters a year from now.

Star Jennifer Lawrence tries her hardest to make it otherwise. She maintains her tight hold on the fierce character of Katniss Everdeen, a rebel by instinct who insists always on being defiantly her own person. Feel her fury as she shouts out a challenge to her mortal enemy, the leader of the future state of Panem.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY, PART 1")

JENNIFER LAWRENCE: (As Katniss Everdeen) I have a message for President Snow. If we burn, you burn with us.

TURAN: Director Francis Lawrence also works hard delivering what few dramatic beats half a novel affords him. You just wish there were more of them and that they provided a more complete, more satisfying story arc. "Mockingjay" opens where the last film, "Catching Fire," ended, with Katniss having just been plucked from the Hunger Games arena and told her actions have been the spark that's inspired a rebellion against her country's totalitarian system. She's spirited away by the rebels and asked to be the face of their uprising. But she's more concerned about the fate of her boyfriend, Peeta. She explains as much when she confronts President Snow himself, played by Donald Sutherland.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY, PART 1")

LAWRENCE: (As Katniss Everdeen) I never wanted any of this. I never wanted to be in the games. I just wanted to save my sister and keep Peeta alive.

DONALD SUTHERLAND: (As President Snow) Ms. Everdeen, it's the things we love most that destroy us.

TURAN: The fact that "Mockingjay, Part 1" ends at a particularly dramatic moment only underscores how frustrating it is to have to wait a whole year for the conclusion. As someone says to Katniss, everyone is going to want to kiss you, kill you or be you. If that's true, it hardly seems fair to have to wait so long for all of the above to happen.

ARUN RATH, HOST:

Kenneth Turan reviews films for MORNING EDITION and the LA Times.

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