Movie Review – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part One (2014)

Director: Francis Lawrence

Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Natalie Dormer, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Willow Shields, Jeffrey Wright, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci

After destroying the arena, Katniss (Lawrence) awakes in District 13 where President Coin (Moore) and her advisors want her to be the face of the rebellion. Other Districts lay in rubble and although Katniss is reluctant at first, when she sees the devastation brought on by the rebellion she realizes she has to do something. However, when broadcasts from the city reach them she sees that Peeta (Hutcherson) is being used as a tool for the Capital’s propaganda. The rebellion attempts to unite the the Districts to fight against the Capital, while also rescuing Peeta and the other victors from the Capital.

The Hunger Games is a strange series for me. I’ve enjoyed the previous two films but I never find myself dwelling on them too much after the fact. I haven’t read the books either, so going into Mockingjay Part 1 I wasn’t expecting to be wowed…in fact I didn’t really have any expectations. Katniss seems traumatised at the beginning and I really liked Lawrence’s performance here. Obviously she’s a fantastic actor and it’s interesting to think about whether the franchise would have been as much of a success without her. But I do love the character of Katniss and I think there should be more roles like her. She’s strong, but not to the point where her strength is her defining characteristic, she’s also confused and troubled but deep down knows what the right thing to do is.

I really enjoyed the political aspect of this film and how the rebellion wanted to use Katniss as a tool for propaganda. I liked the discussion about how best to capture her passion and how she was at odds with Peeta, who was being used for the same thing by the Capital. In fact I would have enjoyed seeing even more of their broadcasts and I would have liked to have seen more reaction in the Capital, for the film focuses on this wide conflict that affects everyone but it seems focused on small pockets of people. As a result I never felt the true scale of the conflict

With no actual Games this film is a big shift in tone and I know some people have criticized it for being slow and ponderous. I agree with them, but I don’t think it’s boring. It managed to hold my attention and there were some bursts of action, although I do agree that they could have included more. I’m interested to see how Part 2 turns out and whether there’s just not a lot of action from the book, or if they saved all the action for Part 2. Speaking of which, I was wary that this film was going to feel like a story chopping in half but by the end of it I did feel satisfied. There was a point where I felt they were going to end it on a cruel cliffhanger, but there was enough resolution to the themes of the movie that I didn’t feel swindled.

The character relationships are fine although a lot of them pop in for what basically amount to cameos. Woody Harrelson, I’m looking at you. President Coin is the newest character given the most amount of development and she works well within the story, although it kinda feels like this infrastructure of the rebellion came out of nowhere. I do wish there had been some flashbacks to what happened at the end of the previous film because I had forgotten much of it, and when certain characters popped up I realized I had completely forgotten about them.

Overall though I liked it a lot. There was one moment of manufactured tension towards the end that I hated because it didn’t add anything to the story at all. I’m looking forward to seeing the conclusion though. I liked how it changed the formula of the previous two films although I do think it could have shown more worldwide reaction to the war. There were a couple of things that really took me by surprise and although it is the first part I don’t feel like it’s a story chopped in half. Roll on next year for part 2!

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