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Pittsburgh fans pay tribute to ‘Mockingjay Part 1’

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Lionsgate
Jennifer Lawrence stars in 'The Hunger Games — Mockingjay Part 1'
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Lionsgate
Jennifer Lawrence stars in 'The Hunger Games — Mockingjay Part 1'
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Lionsgate
Jennifer Lawrence helps lead a rebellion in 'The Hunger Games — Mockingjay Part 1'

The newest installment of “The Hunger Games” trilogy takes audiences out of the arena to dig deeper into the emotions driving the characters as they navigate the horrors of war.

The deviation from the franchise’s previous two films — “The Hunger Games” and “Catching Fire” — did not disappoint fans who packed an early showing Nov. 18 at AMC Loews Waterfront theater in Homestead.

“I loved it,” said Molly Mulligan, 20, a University of Pittsburgh student who attended with a group of friends. “It did justice to the book. I liked ‘Catching Fire,’ but I liked this one more.”

“Mockingjay — Part 1,” which opens wide Nov. 21, picks up where “Catching Fire” left off. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is in District 13 recovering from her game-ending act of defiance in the Quarter Quell. That act propels her to become a symbol of the rebels, led by President Coin (Julianne Moore), a role Katniss assumes as she fights to save Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and those raging against the rule of the Capitol and its nefarious leader, President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

“This half of ‘Mockingjay’ is really about Katniss discovering what she means to the people of all the districts and finally taking on the responsibility in her role in this revolution,” director Francis Lawrence said recently at a news conference in New York City. “It also gave us a chance to explore the idea of one of the facets of war, which is propaganda and manipulation of images and the manipulation of both Peeta and Katniss in that war of the airwaves.”

Much of the film’s emotion comes courtesy of Lawrence’s formidable acting. Her face upon seeing her former home reduced to ruins or realizing that Peeta is in the hands of the Capitol says more than any voiceover could have managed.

“Jennifer Lawrence is an amazing actress,” said Justin Timothy, 18, of Greensburg at the Pittsburgh screening. “I liked the action, but I also liked the music and her singing,” he added, referring to a particularly moving scene when a song Katniss sings in a moment of reflection helps inspire an uprising.

“She’s in a very different place emotionally at the beginning of these movies,” Lawrence said at the news conference. “The games have completely changed her. She has to totally rebuild herself.”

Some audience members might also feel a pang of sadness at seeing Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays Plutarch Heavensbee. The actor died in February after finishing filming his role.

“Mockingjay” does allow for a few light moments, largely provided by the erstwhile alcoholic Haymitch, played by Woody Harrelson, whose mere appearance on screen elicited laughs from the premiere crowd.

Several representatives from Lionsgate, the film’s production company, were at the event to get the already-excited group even more in the spirit with a “Hunger Games” trivia contest. The audience seemed split between those who had read the books and those who didn’t, although anticipation among both groups was high.

“I love ‘The Hunger Games,’ ” said an excited Valerie Posipanka, 15, of Homestead. “I like the storyline. You get emotionally invested. I want to know what’s the deal with District 13? What’s happening with Peeta?”

Supporters of Katniss’ imprisoned love were in full force, seemingly more so than members of Team Gale, the character played by Liam Hemsworth who also vies for Katniss’ affection. Many said Peeta’s scenes, mostly as interviews that the Capitol broadcasts to the districts, were some of the movie’s most riveting.

“Peeta was heartbreaking,” said Liz Hoadley, 20, of Beechview.

“I feel like he’s better for Katniss,” added Jordan Carroll, 16, of Sewickley. “Gale is more like a brother.”

No one at the premiere dressed up like the infamously flamboyant Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), though mimicking her look in this installment wouldn’t have been hard.

Gone are her flashy costumes and elaborate wigs. Instead, she’s issued a standard District 13 jumpsuit, which she makes clear is not a fashion choice she condones.

Fans will have to wait exactly one year for the franchise’s conclusion but were satisfied with the decision to split the last book into two films.

“I like it because it allows for more detail,” Carroll said. “But I don’t want to have to wait that long.”

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or [email protected].

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