The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, 2014.
Directed by Francis Lawrence.
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Natalie Dormer, Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks
After defying the capital at the end of Catching Fire, Katniss joins the rebels of District 13 to take on President Snow.
The phenomena of The Hunger Games has been interesting to watch and as we come to the penultimate film it’s been a pleasure to see the franchise develop and for its star Jennifer Lawrence to flourish in the box office and indie scene. Saying that Mockingjay – Part 1 is the weakest so far and has fallen into the commercial trap of splitting the final book into two films.
Part 1 follows the aftermath of Katniss’ destruction of the force field at the end of Catching Fire. Peeta (Hutcherson) has been kidnapped by the Capitol, District 12 lies in ruins and Katniss is emotionally damaged beyond belief. The strongest point of this film is the performance by Jennifer Lawrence who turns quite a cold character from the books into someone you love to watch and you’re praying for her to succeed. Her portrayal of the PTSD that Katniss is suffering with is balanced perfectly with the more action focused set pieces and shows the development of her character from the first film. Josh Hutcherson, although not on screen much provides a much more engaging performance than the previous films and with his character getting more screen time in the second instalment, it will be interesting to see how he develops Peeta further. The rest of the cast, including newbies Julianne Moore (Alma Coin) and Natalie Dormer (Cressida) provide good performances, but they all feel slightly under used. Given the decision to split the book into two films, it’s surprising that the supporting characters have so little depth to them. Donald Sutherland also delights as the villainous President Snow and once again it’s a shame the film is split as we don’t get to see much of him.
What Mockingjay – Part 1 gets right is its portrayal of the propaganda of war. After much deliberation Katniss agrees to be the face of the rebellion and from this she has to produce propaganda videos where her every movement is recorded, her singing is mixed over images of destruction to influence people to their cause and so on. It’s extremely relevant to what’s happening in the news channels and to see TV being used as such a powerful manipulation tool from both sides is a thought provoking concept. Scenes between Peeta and Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) instantly capture your attention and realise the power that the Capitol holds.
The action of the first two is lacking in this film, however, when there are some action set pieces they are fantastic to watch and remind us of what is to come in the next film. And therein lies the problem that I have with this film. It is all about the set up for Part 2, it’s about wetting our appetite for what’s coming to ensure that we each pay full price for our cinema tickets. Whilst splitting the final book into two has worked previously – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows being a prime example – it can drag out already thin material – Twilight: Breaking Dawn. The novel Mockingjay provides rich source material, but it’s not the most action packed first half, making this film feel quite long and dull at times. Where director Francis Lawrence has chosen to split the film is a good place, but it almost feel as if the movie is just about to get going and then the credits start to roll.
Mockingjay – Part 1 is far from a bad film in fact in places it is thrilling to watch. Its commentary on the power of media is intriguing and the performances from the cast are exceptional at times. It just feels as if the split has hindered the pace of the storytelling rather than enhanced it.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Helen Murdoch is a freelance writer – Follow me on Twitter