Part 1 of the series finale feels like nothing more than a lengthy lead in to what we all know will be a stunning conclusion to Katniss Everdeen’s story. I’ve read the books so this review will contain spoilers, little FYI for ya. If you’ve been watching each film not knowing what’s going to happen next and are in full appreciation of this, then perhaps you should skip out on my little review. What I don’t plan on doing is writing something that utilizes “big” words in order to illustrate an “educated” perspective on the source material or the movie itself. Nothing annoys me more than trying to read a movie review only to know if the movie is good or not while being bogged down with words that seemingly have no purpose. I will tell you that Mockingjay Part 1 is nothing more than ok and I would almost warn the Unrealtors that it’d be worth holding off on this one until Part 2 is set to release.
Right out the gate the movie doesn’t waste any time showing you Katniss in her new surroundings. The opening sequence helps to portray the fact that she’s quite unaware of what’s happened after the incident with the arrow and forcefield, focusing more on her anger towards everyone for not saving Peeta. What Katniss doesn’t understand is that her actions have started a fire (catching fire one might say) within the people of Panem giving them reason to rise up and revolt against the Captiol. Now it’s just a matter of getting the message out to the all the Districts that if they fight they can win. To do that, they need a symbol, they need a hero, they need the Mockingjay.
Oh sure, now she’s upset…
I’ll go ahead and say it, one of the movie’s biggest flaws is that it rests solely on Jennifer Lawrence’s shoulders. I made the argument a long while back that for whatever reason, J-Law couldn’t seem to bring the character of Katniss Everdeen to life in the first film. I kept wanting to see a sense of angst, rage, sadness, trauma, fear or something, but she felt almost comatose the entire time. Then Catching Fire came around and showed that maybe there was more to Katniss, maybe there was this huge build up of emotions within her just dying to explode out. With each different trial that miss Everdeen took on within the 2nd film, Jennifer seemed to give us “more” than what we had seen prior. All of that came to a screeching halt when I watched Mockingjay. District 12 being destroyed, people were burned alive, Snow leaving her a white rose and the bombing of a hospital were all scenes set up for Katniss to shine and to display some raw feelings and I along with the rest of the audience were left wanting. WTF happened? Is this not Jennifer Lawrence, the same girl who won an Oscar for her fantastic acting in Silver Linings Playbook? Why does it come across as if she’s just tired of playing Katniss and isn’t supportive of the fight against the Capitol?
Don’t believe me … watch this entire clip and tell me if she ever changes her facial expression once…
I might be pickier than most, but there were multiple scenes here to really take advantage of and I feel that it was a huge miss not only on acting but directing. I get that she’s somber and maybe even in shock, but the audience needs a glimpse at what’s going on inside of her head. (part of what was wrong with the first film, because so much of the book was from Katniss’s perspective and her thoughts but you never see it play out on screen) If the audience can see an ounce of her hatred for President Snow, can catch just a bit of sadness of what she’s taking in, then they would buy into everything else that happens later on with a much better point of view. Case in point, check out this VERY small clip below to see what J-Law can really do and compare it with what you saw above … am I wrong here?
Not only was her performance lacking but it seemed like everyone was in this stale non emotional state for most of the movie. Yet, after writing this and thinking about it, perhaps it was all done intentionally? Maybe we’re going to see a flip side to everyone in Part 2.
Don’t let me fool you, the movie has many faults along the way aside from the way Katniss is handled. One being that it’s nothing more than a set up for the next film that’s set to come out a year later. Look, I understand the point, and it’s been discussed to death…we’re told that these movies come out to give the director a chance to tell the entire ending rather than to mash it into one film. Though time and time again it comes across as a way to pull in the moola more than anything else. The thing that really tarnishes the film is that it gives the audience a chip on their shoulder going in. They already feel like they’ve been conned into watching Part 1 just so that they can see Part 2. If I had to do it all over again, I would wait for this to come out on BluRay, watch it the day of the Part 2 release, and then go watch Part 2 in theater. I’m sure that I would enjoy that experience far better.
President Snow … get it?
It’s not all doom and gloom on the review side of things, oh no, there are highlights I can point out too. (not that I need to make this review any longer) The main antagonist in Mockingjay Part 1 is all but a ghost and yet has quite a bit of pull on how the film proceeds. I’m impressed with how President Snow literally has about 15 minutes of total screen time but is seen as the guy who haunts and tortures Katniss without ever being in the same room. Now that’s how you create a villain. When a white rose can elude to death on the horizon, then I’d consider that to be some pretty powerful stuff.
There’s also District 13, the “weapons depot” of Panem. We’re never given an opportunity to explore District 13 or given a sense of how large or how confined it truly is. However, the scenes that are shown within the confines of District 13 are very claustrophobic and help add to the tension that is building. I personally loved seeing that everyone was moving about within a huge abandoned missile silo and that nothing was overly fancy or elaborate. A great depiction of what I had already set up in my own imagination. Which at times is an added benefit of reading the books before seeing the film – allowing yourself the chance to imagine how things should look and seeing if the art direction is on point is a lot of fun. (at least for me)
Finally, there are quite a few changes made translating the book to the theater screen. None of which really bothered me to much. One I would point out is that the addition of Effie Trinket in place of the “make-up squad”. Elizabeth Banks should be commended for taking on the role of District 13’s Panem reject and really pushing it further than expected. Hell, I’d say that Effie was probably my favorite part of the movie (alongside Haymitch of course)
Oh Gale, just up and die for the cause already, jeeze!
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 never hits the ground running. It spends the entire time just setting everything up for Part 2. It seems that what it suffers from the most is that it never ends up being it’s own movie. There’s hardly a beginning and there’s certainly no definite ending. It picks up where Catching Fire left us and tries to finish on cliffhanger that is anything but. The only huge thing that happens in the film happens within the last 20 minutes and it’s a part that we’re never actually given in the book, go figure. (I actually enjoyed watching what went on with rescuing Peeta) If you’re looking for an exciting romp alongside the rebellion within the confines of District 13 consider yourself warned, this is not the movie for you.
Hey guys & gals, my name is Lucas Tetrault and if you like this post or any of the others I’ve written – please feel free to venture over to my Blog and take a gander at some other stuff I write about. Heck, you can follow me on Twitter if you want. I promise I don’t intend to waste your time.
I work as a Creative Director and spend time away from my job with my family, writing for Unreality, and trying to be creative with my own personal projects.