The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Posted: November 30, 2014 in Movie Reviews

Jennifer Lawrence_The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

What do you do when you come up against an overwhelming power—–a domineering, dictatorial supremacy—–that will crush you at any opportunity? And what if you find yourself at the core of the battle that rages against that power? And, furthermore, do you expose your fear and weakness in the face of overwhelming odds? Even if it means saving those whom you hold so dear? While the newest addition to the Hunger Games franchise may lack in several fundamental cinematic elements, it certainly doesn’t skimp on its share of moral dilemmas and predicaments.

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Summary: (No spoilers)
Following her blatant act of defiance against the Capitol in the quarter quell, young Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence——Silver Linings Playbook) is looked to as the symbol of hope in the French Revolution-like rebellion against the totalitarian power that has been at the center of oppression for many years.

Through a series of propaganda films promoting Katniss as their savior, the 13 districts are united against the tyrannical President Snow (Donald Sutherland——Pride and Prejudice) and are rallied together for the fight of mankind’s liberation. But as the rebellion’s uprising brings retaliation and death on them all, Katniss constantly asks herself if it’s all worth it as Snow seeks to destroy everything she loves and esteems.

Also starring: Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks, and Stanley Tucci.

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I personally was less than impressed with the first Hunger Games, but was quite surprised by how entertaining Catching Fire was. It was a very fun time and excited me for the next one. Having not read the books, I couldn’t properly exhibit my pleasure or dismay at the splitting of the last book.

What I like about Mockingjay Part 1 are the deep, personal journeys the characters encounter. Unlike many mainstream blockbuster franchises, character development is a forte. We’re given plenty of opportunities for personal innuendos and internal struggles to shove past stylized action and big-budget computer wizardry in order to tell a more compelling story.

Jennifer Lawrence1_The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

My largest and, really, main complaint about the film is the notion of splitting the book in half. While some books may have enough interesting content to span across their entirety, the vast majority of books’ climax occur near the end, what’s known as the “third act”. In each of the “Lord of the Rings” books, for example, the bulk of the action ensues near the end—–“The Fellowship of the Ring” ends with the fight in the forest at Amon Hen, “The Two Towers” with the battle of Helm’s Deep, and “The Return of the King” with the battle at the Black Gate and the destruction of the One Ring. If we were to analyze even further, the three books collectively create a three-act story, with “The Return of the King” being the pinnacle. Each act has a climax while the trilogy overall has a climax.

But with Mockingjay Part 1, not enough happens within the first half of the “Mockingjay” story to merit a two-part film. The same could be said of the splitting of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”. Deathly Hallows Part 1 drags and becomes so repetitive that you eventually wonder how much of the film is Harry and the gang camping in the woods. The essence of the story doesn’t occur until part 2; Harry finally confronts his nemesis and everything that has led up to that moment is finally concluded. But at least in Deathly Hallows Part 1 there is enough action and drama to create some sort of balance and a somewhat-proper story arc.

Then there’s the discussion of turning “The Hobbit” into three films. While this has been a hot topic among film fans, the short of it all is that “The Hobbit” is enough of a serialized book and Peter Jackson has added enough relevant material to more than merit its existence as a trilogy, even if there is some filler.

As far as Mockingjay Part 1 goes, think of it this way: you’re promised a delicious steak dinner and instead discover that you’ll receive two dinners. Sounds great, right? You sit down one night and enjoy a delicious 12 oz. prime cut. Then you go back the next night for your second dinner, but this time your 12 oz. steak consists of mostly fat. You were pleased at the prospect of an additional steak dinner, but end up cutting off and discarding most of your second steak. And even if you were to consume the fat, it wouldn’t be nearly as mouthwatering or appetizing as the meat.

Rather than having the privilege of being able to see what we all want to see, we’re given several scenes of Katniss standing on rubble with a look of shock on her face. The film is a proper set up of what’s to come, but with no satisfying ending nor sufficient material to keep us occupied during its course. It just seems as if the film should have been called “The Hunger Games: Katniss Making Propaganda Films”.

In a nutshell:

Even though the story could greatly benefit from being one film, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is still entertaining enough to excite us about the final act. Stark in tone and with an emotional performance by Jennifer Lawrence, it simply would have been nice to have a film with more of a proper story arc. However, I will still eagerly return to the theater in one year from now, hungry (no pun intended) for more.

7 stars

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