Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile Previous Previous Next Next
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: B
Cinematography: B
Editing: B
Special Effects: B

Mockingjay - Part 1 is by far the weakest entry yet in the Hunger Games franchise, but given the studio's transparently capitalistic choice of breaking the final installment into two films, that's hardly a surprise. This movie is all build-up and no payoff, and now we get to wait another year before we get to see the conclusion. When that one gets released next November, there's every reason to expect it will be more exciting than this one; perhaps also more exciting than last year's Catching Fire, but likely still not as good as the 2012 original. And so it goes.

That's not to say that this first half of Mockingjay is boring. It's just disappointingly muted by comparison. Since most of the story takes place with Katniss (the always wonderful Jennifer Lawrence) hanging out underground with the Rebellion underground in District 13, this applies even to the production design. Gone are the flashy colors of the previous films, with their far more numerous scenes in the Capitol; now we get crowds of people in brown jumpsuits. This is a minor punch line with Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), who is forced to replace her beloved wigs with head wraps, and eventually adds some flair to her jumpsuit with a cape.

The rebels, led by Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman, to whom the film is dedicated) and President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), recruit Effie to help them make Katniss appropriately presentable in their own propaganda pieces as a symbol for resistance in other Districts. This is the source of most of the conflict in this part of the saga: Katniss, to a large degree, is being manipulated by the rebels the same way she was by the Capitol while she played in the Hunger Games. Katniss has mixed emotions about this, especially as the Capitol keeps running interviews with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson, disappointingly underused in this installment), who appears to be brainwashed into supporting an end to the resistance.

To be sure, all this makes for a much less thrilling story than an actual hunger games, even with Katniss being sent into battlefields with her own camera crew to make more propaganda spots. These excursions lead to high-fatality retaliations by the Capitol; between that and the way they're using Peeta, Katniss has a hard time with her position as the catalyst for a revolution.

Still, watching Mockingjay - Part 1, it's impossible not to feel diminishing returns in this series of films. There was something very different, and even provocatively disturbing (if not particularly original), about the concept of the first film, with teenagers being pitted to each other to the death for their country's amusement. In Catching Fire, the Capitol decided to pit past winners against each other, which meant players of all ages -- even an old lady -- were assembled, and thus by definition less was at stake. There are no Games this time around, unless you want to count Katniss observing footage of Peeta and declaring, "He's still playing the game."

From the characters' perspectives, everything is at stake this time around: their entire country and the lives of everyone in it. To be sure, this film has a far larger body count, both due to the rebel sacrifices (lots of people at the front lines there apparently just to get shot down until those behind them can get further) and to the Captiol's retaliations. Most of Katniss's District 12 has been obliterated, although naturally her mother and sister (and even her sister's cat, who is used for a completely unnecessary sequence supposedly meant to mount tension) are spared, so they can continue being part of what Katniss is fighting for.

Fairweather fans of these films really need not see this movie; it is meant for the die-hards. And there are plenty, so the studio obviously need not worry; this movie is already making plenty enough money for them to feel justified in following the trend set by Harry Potter and continued by Twilight of splitting up the final installment. Artistically, there was no necessity for it whatsoever. We all know that fans of these adaptations of beloved young adult novels will show up in droves regardless of how long the movie is, and this one could easily have just been one three-hour (or possibly just two-and-a-half-hour) movie. That would at least have given fans a solid story that also provided closure, instead of the rather weak cliffhanger ending this one provides.

But, this is what we get, and for the fans, it's better than nothing. Mockingjay isn't great -- it doesn't even hint at greatness -- but it does continue the story of characters we've become invested in, and it's enough to make us look forward to next year's conclusion.

Jennifer Lawrence finds herself a pawn on both sides of THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY - PART 1.

Overall: B
Leave a comment