Che Guevara, Spartacus, William Wallace, Robespierre, Katniss Everdeen.
In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1, the defiant teenager from the Appalachian dystopia of District 12 - the girl with the bow and arrows and the killer survival instinct - joins the ranks of history's great revolutionaries. In the third film in the mega-franchise based on the Suzanne Collins trilogy (and the first installment in a cloven-in-two adaptation of the final book), Katniss is the It Girl for an epic uprising. She's the Joan of Arc of post-apocalyptic Panem, ready to lead the rabble against the imperious fancypants in the Capitol.
Of course, Katniss - Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence, wearing an army-green jumpsuit and a look of profound shaken-up-ness - is a willing participant in the media campaign to rouse the oppressed.
"She is our girl on fire," Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the Head Gamemaker-turned-rebel strategist, tells President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), the calm, collected leader of District 13. "She's the fuel of the revolution," he adds. "She's the lightning rod," he further explains. OK, we get the idea.
Bring in the camera crew and let the "propos" - propaganda TV spots - fly. This revolution will be televised.
More somber than the previous Hunger Game extravaganzas, Mockingjay has its action set-pieces - a merciless aerial attack on a hospital, with Katniss firing her exploding arrows back at the attacking fighter jets, and a Zero Dark Thirty-like stealth raid into the heart of enemy territory. But it also has time for reflection, and backstory, and to lay the groundwork for all the ultimate stuff happening in the book's second half. But we'll have to wait another year for Mockingjay - Part 2.
If Mockingjay - Part 1 is quieter and less flashy than its predecessors, that doesn't make it less satisfying.
Francis Lawrence, who came aboard as director of the second pic, Catching Fire, lets his cast flex their muscles. Moore, white-maned and White House-ready (Hillary Clinton, take note), and Hoffman (in his very final performance, alas) manage to enliven their realpolitik chats with conviction. Elizabeth Banks, stripped of the flamboyant wigs and wardrobe of her character, Effie Trinkett, is actually funnier in military fatigues and makeshift bandanna. Woody Harrelson doesn't have much to do, but his character, Haymitch Abernathy, an early winner of the titular life-or-death competition, is more lucid and likable when he's sober - which he is, skulking around the bottomless fallout shelter of District 13.
Star Lawrence, whose wild-eyed (and wildly different) work in David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle confirmed the early signs of outsized talent shown in the 2010 indie Winter's Bone (essentially her audition reel for The Hunger Games), seems to know Katniss inside and out.
Torn between the boy she loves (Josh Hutcherson's Peeta - has he allied himself with the Capitol? Is he even alive?) and the boy who loves her (Liam Hemsworth's soulfully hunky Gale), Katniss has a lot on her plate. Still, on a sorrowful return to the bombed-out Victors' Village, where once she lived with her family in luxury, Katniss has the presence of mind to grab a few mementos, some spices, her cat. And also her leather jacket.
In the struggle to overthrow the autocrats, the right outerwear is a must.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 *** (Out of four stars)
Directed by Francis Lawrence. With Jennifer Lawrence, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson. Distributed by Lionsgate.
Running time: 2 hours, 4 mins.
Parent's guide: PG-13 (violence, adult themes).
Playing at: area theaters.EndText