The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Written by: Peter Craig, Danny Strong and Suzanne Collins
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Jeffrey Wright and Sam Claflin.
Last year Catching Fire, the second film in The Hunger Games franchise, went out with a bang when heroine Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) abruptly put an end to the games with a well-executed arrow shot. Shortly thereafter she learned that drastic measures had been taken in District 12 (her home district) and that Peeta was in danger. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 picks up right where things left off.
Katniss is tucked away in a bunker under the charred remnants of District 13. The bunker is home to the rebellion movement, and they want Katniss to serve as a spokesperson for the insurgence. She reluctantly takes on this role for the sake of the movement.
Mockingjay shows Katniss in a new light. This is not the same girl we saw in the first two films. She’s broken and fragile, still reeling from the fallout of the Hunger Games and the loss of District 12. There’s no time to process her grief, though. Flanked by a film crew, Katniss visits the ruins of District 12 and District 8. The crew intends to use the footage for “propos”-propaganda commercials.
The inherent problem with Mockingjay is that it’s mostly filler. Lionsgate decided to milk their cash-cow franchise by splitting the final book in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy into two films. The result is a dull, boring movie. There’s not enough story to fill a two-hour running time. Mockingjay is wrapped up in a pretty bow, but it’s repetitive and uninspired.
The first scene in which we see Katniss trying to process the massive destruction around her is fraught with emotion. Lawrence is excellent, but we see the same exact scene reenacted over and over again, and the emotional impact is lessened with each subsequent scene. I liked seeing the initial exploration of Katniss’s vulnerable side, but at some point I simply got sick of seeing her cry in every single scene. Even the landscapes in the two districts she visits are virtually identical.
A bright spot in Mockingjay is the acting. A few new characters breathe some life into the film. Julianne Moore is exceptionally strong as President Coin, the leader of District 13. Also of note is Natalie Dormer, who plays Cressinda, the director in the film crew.
Returning cast members include Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland, Jeffrey Wright and Sam Claflin. It’s bittersweet to see Philip Seymour Hoffman on screen as Plutarch. The film is tastefully dedicated to him (Hoffman passed away last year).
Pacing problems aside, Mockingjay is well-directed. Francis Lawrence makes good use of his budget, and the action set pieces look remarkable. Mockingjay explores the political themes of oppression, class warfare and media manipulation. When Katniss’s propos start airing, President Snow (Sutherland) fires back with a series of messages from Peeta (Hutcherson), clearly under duress. The two sides are physically and mentally battling one another for the control of the people. That sets up the premise for Mockingjay – Part 2. It remains to be seen if the buildup in Mockingjay – Part 1 was necessary. — Shannon