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THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1 (review)

hunger_games_mockingjay__part_oneTHE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1
Written by Peter Craig and Danny Strong
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth
 
President Alma Coin: Do you have any other demands?

Katniss Everdeen: My sister gets to keep her cat.

Make no mistake; the games are over and the war has officially begun. Well, the events leading up to the actual war between the districts and the Capital have started more or less; they’re saving the actual war for the finale. As a result, THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1 plays out like a prelude to a more monumental moment that is always just out of reach. And while it does leave you longing for more, which is partly the point of course, there is still plenty in Katniss Everdeen’s latest adventure to make this third film in the franchise more than just a coming attraction for the main event.

The first half of MOCKINGJAY picks up precisely where CATCHING FIRE left off. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) has just been whisked away from the arena where she just put an end to the Quarter Quell competition by firing an arrow into the arena’s forcefield and blowing the whole thing up. She has just learned that this was part of the bigger plan all along and that she was an integral part of that plan. As part of this plan though, she also had to leave her potential love interest, Peeta (Josh Hutchinson) behind. She now finds herself in a secret District 13 location, being courted by President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), who leads the rebellion, to stand with them as an inspiration to others to join in their fight to take down President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and the Capital.

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If this is at all jarring to you, then you should make a point of seeing the first two films before seeing the third, as director, Francis Lawrence does nothing to orient the more passive viewer before getting the action started. I’ve not read the third Suzanne Collins book but, as I understand it to be the general consensus, the third book is not as great as the first two. If the film is a carbon copy of the book, then I can understand why people might say that. The first half hour of MOCKINGJAY PART 1 is like something of a reunion for Katniss. We get to see her catch up with all of the major players from her past, including Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), her sister and mother (Willow Shields and Paula Malcomson, respectively) and of course, her other potential love interest, Gale (Liam Hemsworth). This may be fun for some fans but it stops the film from getting going before it even gets started.

Even once the action does get formally started, we have to sit through a fair amount of reluctance on Katniss’s part to get things moving. All this time, Katniss has been a catalyst to the uprising and now, just as things should be moving away from her and transitioning into a cause that is about everyone, the action seems to be more and more about her. Not only can she not get her head around Peeta being a prisoner puppet for the Capital, but it seems that both President Coin and President Snow are obsessed with making the entire war about Katniss. Coin doesn’t feel that the cause will have enough might without Katniss leading the fight, while Snow feels that taking Katniss out will deflate the entire movement. Essentially, they both feel the success or failure of the war hinges on Katniss. Not surprisingly, Katniss finds it inside of her to help support the cause of the districts, but naturally, before she can do anything at all, she must have yet another costume fitting to look perfect for the occasion.

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As a film, THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKING JAY PART 1 doesn’t ever feel complete. Of course it isn’t complete, as there is a whole other half still waiting to be unleashed upon rabid fans. Both sides of the war take shots at each other to help escalate the situation, much of which is tense and exciting for the viewer. Further progress is made in the reluctant love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale without feeling too obtrusive, or more importantly, without feeling too juvenile. To Lawrence’s credit (Francis’s that is, not Jennifer’s), the energy is constantly mounting throughout the film but then it all comes to a screeching halt to make room for the final instalment. Some might call this film nothing but a tease, but as a fan myself, I didn’t find it very hard to get caught up in Katniss’s melodrama and now I am very excited for next year’s conclusion. That said, if she doesn’t pick Peeta, I’m going to be pretty pissed (he says, not really caring which way the war goes.)

3.5 sheep

Your turn!

How many sheep would you give The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1?

2 Comments

  1. Like you, I am also a fan of this movie franchise without having read the books and I wholeheartedly agree with your rating. My biggest beef with Mockingjay Part 1 is not that it is a tease to what will hopefully be a grand finale but that it took no time whatsoever from its very generous 123 minutes to give us a backstory for President Coin. When Julianne Moore showed up on screen, my first question was, and still remains, who the heck is this woman and how and why did she become the leader of the rebellion? What I truly enjoyed in this movie was the genuine chemistry between Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman, the absolute glee in Donald Sutherland’s maniacal performance and the never disappointing Jennifer Lawrence. Lastly, I agree that if Katniss doesn’t choose Peeta I will forever give up the notion of true love – though I would KILL to have a head of hair like Liam Hemsworth!

  2. Well put, George. And you are not the first person to talk to me about the lack of presidential background. I am sure that a second viewing of this film, without my pent up expectations, will lead to a more enjoyable, more forgiving experience but for now, I felt like there were some weaknesses, most likely from the book itself, that shined through here.

    I personally found Lawrence a tad bit over the top at the onset of the film but Katniss always finds her way. And yeah, #TeamPeeta all the way here! Not that I would say no to Liam.

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