Two-part finales can be quite a feat to pull off successfully. It’s the latest trend for franchises to split what should be the final movie in half. So far, the best example is “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” In that final book, there was so much to cover that it couldn’t be accomplished through one single film. Going into “Mockingjay Part I,” I was hoping that this finale would be worth the wait.

Recovering from the events in “Catching Fire,” Katniss Everdeen [Jennifer Lawrence] wakes up in the militarized District 13. Since her act of defiance in the Games, a rebellion grew right under her nose against the Capitol.

Running the entire operation is District 13’s President Coin [Julianne Moore] who urges Katniss to be their symbol of hope for the rebellion.

Betsy Thompson / Equinox Staff

Betsy Thompson / Equinox Staff

Hesitant at first, Katniss makes it clear that she never wanted to be part of any of this. But when President Snow [Donald Sutherland] shows that war is inevitable, Katniss starts to realize the cards she’s been dealt.

Being a two part story, it’s hard to judge it as a standalone film. Once the next film comes out, I’ll be able to look back with a greater appreciation for the larger picture.

Part I is all the build-up to what should be an exciting climax to the “Hunger Games” saga. If anybody had told me years ago that I would be excited for a “Hunger Games” movie, I would have been baffled.

But low and behold, a saving grace came in the form of Jennifer Lawrence. Besides an underrated drama [“Winter’s Bone”], she was virtually unknown. Now, she’s a household name. While Katniss isn’t her greatest role, she brings enough passion and energy to the character that I find it near impossible for anybody to play her, but Jennifer Lawrence.

Katniss Everdeen is meant to be the symbol of the mockingjay, but deep down, is she? She was only informed of the rebellion at the end of the last movie. When she wakes up in a panicked state, she’s unaware of what awaits her. The burden of this responsibility falls on her shoulders and there’s nothing she can do about it. Keeping up with the political satire from the previous films, the leaders of District 13 use Katniss for a series of propaganda shorts. It’s only when she sees the ruthless destruction of her home caused by President Snow, that she realizes the world she now lives in and what she has to do to make it right for all of Panem.

Along by her side is a truly great supporting cast. When Philip Seymour Hoffman came on-screen, I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t hard to watch due to his unfortunate death.

But luckily one of the greatest actors of all time gave a great performance before he left, which makes it all the more depressing that “Mockingjay Part II” will be his final film. Not only does he work well with Julianne Moore, but she even outshines him in a few places.

  Julianne Moore’s President Coin looks like she’s been through the wringer. She’s seen some dark days, yet she stands up and encourages a large group of people to fight for a better world. If Coin was leading any speech in real life, it would be hard to not get entranced by her words.

Returning favorites like Woody Harrelson, Sam Claflin, Donald Sutherland and Josh Hutcherson are in the film, but only for a limited amount of time.

Everybody gets their moment to shine, although the scene-stealer was Elizabeth Banks as Effie. Watching her character try to interact in an unknown environment brings a bit of comedic relief to this otherwise dark war film.

The negatives I have mostly have to do with being only half a story. I was never bored, but there were a few moments that could have been cut out. I’m hoping “Mockingjay Part II” will make this story feel more complete.

Other than that, this “Hunger Games” went darker into a horrific situation.  Nobody wants to go into war and “Mockingjay Part I” shows how this can affect someone. Instead of high-octane action, the tension builds and builds as the stakes get higher.

From where “Mockingjay Part I” ends, it looks like everybody is ready for the final battle for Panem and its future.

Rating: B+

Matt Bilodeau can be contacted at mbilodeau@keene-equinox.com

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