Robert Kojder on whether The Hunger Games: Mockingjay should have been split in two…
Unless you have been living under a rock, then you have probably noticed the recent lucrative trend by Hollywood to take the final chapter of an adaptation and split it into multiple forms. In some cases the decision has been justified (Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows and The Hobbit) while others (Twilight) probably didn’t require their narratives expanded and stretched out of proportion. So where does The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 fit in? To be honest, somewhere in the middle.
As films I truly appreciate how each Hunger Games is different from the last. The original was mostly a gritty action-packed look at the violence of the games themselves, while the sequel Catching Fire dialed back on the action to tell a story more grounded in politics and media manipulation. Mockingjay is wholly unique from the rest of the pack due to the fact that there are no games at all here, and that what was once a series of films packed with splendid colorful visuals and special effects is now a world filled with rubble and destruction.
There are two central story arcs at play; the first being Katniss’s quest to unite all of the other districts as a well oiled machine to start a revolution, with the other being a new dynamic twist on her relationship with Peeta. Love interests in young adult adaptations usually come across cliché and cheesy, so it’s refreshing that The Hunger Games has always successfully put a spin on things. Originally, it was a faux-love in order to sway support in their favor, but here now knowing that Katniss really does care for Peeta spices up the drama because the two are now on opposing sides of the revolution.
What’s interesting is that Katniss believes the Capitol is brainwashing Peeta into delivering propaganda against the impending war, whereas he is also under the impression that the overseers of the rebellion are turning her into something that she is not. In other words, there is another unique layer to the relationship, and it works due to a surprisingly powerful performance from Josh Hutcherson. Truthfully, he almost steals the movie from Jennifer Lawrence, who unfortunately doesn’t have much to do, because well, not much actually happens in Mockingjay.
You can put together a cast of phenomenal actors ranging from Jennifer Lawrence to Woody Harrelson to Philip Seymour Hoffman (RIP) and many, many other talented names, but it doesn’t really matter if the script doesn’t contain drama that actually gets viewers invested. Of course, the culprit here isn’t the filmmakers, but Lionsgate’s greedy tactic to split a novel they can easily be thrown up on-screen and done justice within 2-3 hours. It has resulted in a consistently annoying amount of repetition within Mockingjay; for example there must be about five scenes of people dramatically surveying wreckage and destruction.
On the flipside, there is a shockingly low amount of action. I would honestly estimate that there are around five minutes of it in a movie that is 125 minutes. What we are left with is a whole lot of propaganda, unnecessary exposition, general filler, and a failed attempt to justify breaking up the film. The worst part is that Mockinjay‘s ending absolutely does feel like a cliffhanger you would see on the penultimate episode of a primetime HBO drama. That’s perfectly acceptable when the wait is only a week, but a year’s time? Well that’s just dickish.
I will admit though that it’s entirely possible and understandable if fans of the novels enjoy all of the additional content that was created for the movie. Perhaps if you truly love all of these characters, you will have a greater appreciation for the numerous amount of little touches and pointless dialogue exchanges, that to regular moviegoers like myself just felt like glacial pacing. Mockingjay is actually the shortest film in the franchise, but boy does it certainly feel like the longest.
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. He currently writes for Flickering Myth, We Got This Covered, and Wrestle Enigma. Follow me on Twitter.
Listen to the Flickering Myth Podcast review of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 using the player below: