Mockingjay Part 1 Review
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Director: Francis Lawrence PG-13/123 min. **½ (out of 5)
“Mockingjay Part 1″ continues the story of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in her ascension to be a leader of the rebellion out to topple the evil Capitol. “The Hunger Games” has always been an interesting series to watch, as the previous two films were imminently weird, but still fun and enjoyable. But with this second to last entry, it seems as if all the fun has been sucked out, and replaced with drab political speeches. I think a number of factors are to blame for this disappointing entry in the series, so let’s dive into what those are.
Unfortunately, like many other franchises these days, the adaptation of the final book of “The Hunger Games” is being split up into two parts. This decision was purely financial, and the movie suffers because of it. What should have been an exciting action packed finale is now a prodding directionless mess, which ultimately doesn’t hold a candle to the other films in the series. The previous movies were vibrant and full of color, with lots of bright blues and reds filling up the costumes and locations. Now we are stuck in a depressing concrete dungeon, with constant streams of gray and black to keep us company. I know that a lot of this has to do with the source material, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have made this a better film.
As “Mockingjay: Part 1″ is essentially just a prologue to the actual finale, not a lot happens in the 123 minute movie. After being rescued by the rebels at the end of the last film, Katniss is reunited with her family and friends from her own District 12, which has since been destroyed by the Capitol. The members of the rebellious District 13 are stationed in an underground facility that serves as a base of operations. The group is led by President Alma Coin, played by Julianne Moore. She is advised by the former Capitol member Plutarch Heavensbee, portrayed wonderfully by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. It is by his urging that Coin decides to utilize Katniss as a political weapon against the Capitol.
What follows are numerous scenes of Katniss being followed by a team of military professionals who double as her camera crew. In what the movie calls propos, which I understand is short for propaganda pieces, the camera crew follows Katniss around and films her interacting with various citizens of the other districts. In doing so they are hoping to show Katniss in the best possible way in order to drum up support to their cause, which would in turn lead to a better chance for the rebellion to succeed. Some of these scenes are actually effective at stirring up emotion, but I believe a lot of this has to do with the goodwill built up over the past two movies than anything actually happening in this film.
Lawrence is quite good in this role, and she does admirably decent work here as well. Her scenes are generally the most effective in the movie, and you really feel a sense of longing as she agonizes over her fellow Hunger Games champion Peeta Mellark, played by Josh Hutcherson. He is being held captive in the Capitol, and is being tortured and manipulated into delivering his own filmed propaganda pieces for the oppressors. Hutcherson and Lawrence have been wonderful in the previous films, which is why it’s a shame that they barely have any time together here. Similar praise must also be heaped onto the other performers in the film, everyone is fully on board with selling this world. Unfortunately the majority of this film ultimately proves unnecessary in the end.
“Mockingjay: Part 1″ suffers greatly from the decision to split the final book into two films. There are a number of extraneous scenes which feel wholly like filler, used simply to pad out the running time. It is a disappointment based on the quality of the previous films, and a shameful attempt to cash in on a very popular franchise. We are essentially left with half a movie, and as the film approaches its climax the feeling of mounting tension is palpable. But just as it feels as if the movie will finally kick into gear we cut to black, only to have to wait another year to see the conclusion. Did I mention how much I didn’t like the decision to split this film up?Jeffrey Irvine Life in Cinema