The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014)
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman
From the perspective of the studios, yes it makes sense to split the final book up into two films. But other than that, it doesn’t make much sense. It sort of worked for the Harry Potter franchise, but there is a lot more material in those novels than The Hunger Games trilogy. Because of this factor alone, Mockingjay Part 1 suffers tremendously as a stand-alone film.
Picking up right where the last film left off, Katniss is still recovering from her last battle royale where she, and a few others, were rescued when she fired an arrow that brought down the death coliseum. But from those who were rescued, Peeta wasn’t one of them and that’s number one on Katniss’ priority list. She is chosen to be the symbol of the rebellion, led by President Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) as they’re functioning inside a secret bunker of District 13. With Katniss as the rebellion’s symbol, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) uses Peeta as a tool to convince Katniss and the rebels that a war isn’t wise. The two exchange a cat-and-mouse game of inspiring and informational videos to the other districts, hoping to influence the remaining citizens.
Not a lot happens in Mockingjay Part 1, which is expected for a single novel to be split into two parts. There is a lot of setting up here, especially watching how Katniss slowly develops an eagerness to unite the rebels together against President Snow and the capital. That’s the only path the film can take when there isn’t a lot of material, but for what it’s worth it’s quite good. Jennifer Lawrence definitely has the acting chops to pull her weight as Katniss goes through her transformation, and it helps that she’s surrounded by the likes of Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, and Julianne Moore. But the movie lacks any true uplifting moments that you usually get when you have a group of underdogs fighting against the evil empire. Needless to say, there’s no heart in Mockingjay Part 1.
Sure, there is a lot of story left to tell including the chaotic scenes when the rebels and the capital clash, but all we get in Part 1 is a lot of depressing shots of dirty faces as their hopes of freedom are quickly fading. Also, I thought the way the film ended was a questionable one as it doesn’t really leave you with a cliffhanger conclusion. Instead, it leaves you wondering where the last two hours went. I don’t mind it when books are split up into two or three movies, but they have to be a good enough film to stand alone without the fact that there will be a sequel. Mockingjay Part 1 is a bad example of books being split into films.
Not everything is bad in Part 1, but there isn’t enough good to save it from feeling like a very long trailer leading up to the real film. The romance between Katniss and Gale wasn’t even convincing like it was in the novels. It’s a shame that the Twilight series can showcase a better love triangle dilemma than the superior The Hunger Games franchise, but that’s the downfall here. I’m sure Mockingjay Part 2 is going to be right back up to par with the first two films of the franchise, but Part 1 is most certainly the dud.