The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 Movie Review
Like so many final series’ installments, THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY is a divided into two parts from a single source. While the books told the story in three publications, the films chose to tell the story in four separate parts. I’m not necessarily knocking this plan, as a book has endless possibilities through the imagination and can use an unlimited amount of pages, while movies are obviously bound to many more restraints. Sometimes it is completely unnecessary to divide a movie up (three Hobbit movies!) and sometimes it is a benefit (HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS). The highly anticipated THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 still contains our beloved characters continuing an intriguing story in a world that most of us cherish. But with the difficult task as being mostly a setup movie to the second half of the final chapter, the film takes a step back from the excitement, becoming the weakest of the series.
After being rescued from the Quarter Quell in CATCHING FIRE, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is relatively safe in a hidden but fully loaded bunker on District 13. While her sister, mom and many others are also safe, Katniss’ home of District 12 has been completely destroyed, infusing the first of many Katniss breakdowns. President Coin (Julianne Moore), the leader of the rebellion against the Capitol, with the advice from Plutarch (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman), asks Katniss to be the face for their cause and the symbol of hope. With the demand that they promise to save Peeta and the other hostaged tributes from President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and the Capitol, Katniss reluctantly accepts the responsibility to become the people’s Mockingjay.
There is a lot of story to get to in the final book, unfortunately MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 is fairly redundant in its action. There are only so many times that the audience needs to see Katniss crying over the death of others until we become numb to the tragedies. That is not to say it’s without merit. In fact, MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 explores some great themes within the politicking and propaganda of war. The highlights involve Katniss attempting to act heroic in a commercial with her rising up in a make-believe battle. Things also get a bit more interesting whenever Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) shows up on his limited screen time as an unhealthy looking ambassador for the Capitol. The casting for the film is still one of the strong suits. While many of the characters take on a more subdued role, Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Finnick (Sam Claflin), and Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) to name a few, Lawrence and Hutcherson absolutely bring it as Katniss and Peeta. Without them, the flaws in MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 might be more noticeable. It’s hard not to love a heroine who refuses to get caught up in a love story between boys and continues to fight for others.
The films are progressing to a darker state and exploring some serious matters which ideally is very exciting. Unfortunately from a technical standpoint the execution just isn’t there for MOCKINGJAY – PART 1. Rather than let the action speak for itself, characters unnecessarily explained what is happening. Without the usual exciting action of the actual Hunger Games, the tension and energy nearly disappears. The film still brings a few exceptionally strong scenes, particularly when Katniss and her team of soldiers and camera crew head outside of District 13, but it also tries to force in tension where it doesn’t belong. While rescuing a cat might be very significant for the characters development and relationship, it hardly deserves extra focus as an action sequence.
The fan in me is completely involved in THE HUNGER GAMES saga (read my glowing reviews of THE HUNGER GAMES and THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE), but the critic in me was completely frustrated at some of the dialogue and poor screenwriting this time around. Sadly, both versions of me ended up a little bored. Knowing what’s to come, I only have the highest hope for Part 2 and believe the odds will ever be in its favor to get back on track. As it stands, fans should still enjoy THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1, just lower your expectations.