I am not a big fan of young adult material, all that much. I've read, and enjoyed all seven of the Harry Potter books, and also enjoyed the films. There have been a few other YA books and movies since (and during) that, intentional or not, have tried to recreate (or 'cash-in', depending on your viewpoint) that level of quality, immersion and sizeable fanbase.
I believe that The Hunger Games while possibly not the 'next' Harry Potter, is possibly the best young adult books (and films) since.
I was pleasantly surprised after reading the first book (and the rest of the trilogy) by the the story, as well as the fact that I enjoyed it as much as I did.
I was also surprised by the first film (as I was with a few of the Harry Potter films) that a movie this good could come from YA literature - it is a force to be reckoned with, that genre. Without a doubt, Jennifer Lawrence is the best aspect of that first film.
And, the same goes with Catching Fire, the second installment. For the most part, they improved on The Hunger Games. But now, we approach the end of the franchise.
First things first. You see 'Part 1' in this review, on posters etc...etc... that is because, like Harry Potter, they have split the finale into two films. So, really, I will let you know how much I enjoyed this film(s) next November. Just kidding. While reading the final book, I thought "this is going to be a long movie, or lots will be cut out, or both." (this was before the announcement that the finale would be a two-parter). So, I was glad that the last book got two films. There is quite a bit that goes on 'behind the scenes' or 'off the page' that warrants a split, dollar figures aside. It seems right that it got two films, the same way that Deathly Hallows, the ending of Harry Potter, did. The decision did not seem to boggle the mind like the ending of Twilight did (why was that two movies? Pure and simple, money, nothing to do with narrative.). My thoughts on The Hobbit getting three films is for another post, though I support it: expanded narrative etc. But anyway...
The film basically picks up right where Catching Fire left off. In the future, I am sure people will be having four-movie marathons after next year's finale, but I would suggest brushing up on the Catching Fire story shortly before seeing this one. To not waste time, to my joy, there was not much 'recapping'. The film is more drama based than the other entries. It is more on the political side of the rebellion. Because of that, one could argue against the two-movie split, especially due to the 2 hour runtime (make it longer, or close to three hours than you could fit everything in. Then again, things may have had to get cut out of a single-movie Mockingjay to maximize theatrical potential) however it may have felt crammed or rushed, like the Goblet of Fire film did as an adaptation.
The acting is pretty good for a YA film. There are great moments throughout the series and this film, but special mention goes to the "...fire is catching! And if we burn, you burn with us!" speech, due the power and emotion Lawrence gives it.
The film ultimately spends about 2 hours to set things up for the finale, Mockingjay (Part 2) due next November. To quote another franchise: "The board is set...the pieces are moving." People who have read the book will definitely appreciate the split to stay more faithful to the source text; to include the non-Katniss scenes. Non readers may not be as 'forgiving'...no, 'accepting' of the split. I have high hopes that next year, when the saga closes, that it will be worth it.
I will close by saying that I am glad these films have turned out so well in terms of quality. They may not be nominated for any Oscars or high-end prestige awards; but it is safe to say that The Hunger Games on the whole will appear on many favourites, and I think this is one of the year's better films. I hunger for next year's installment, the finale - Mockingjay (Part 2).
By the way - the film ends with Katniss finding out what Snow meant when he said "It's the things we love the most, that destroy us."
(next year I'll review Part 2 on it's own, as well as the film series as a whole)