Now that there’s no more actual games taking place, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is able to focus more on the political battle within Panem. Katniss has become the face of the rebellion, and in order to encourage all the districts to rise up together against the Capitol, she is persuaded into making propaganda videos to excite the fight within those who have been oppressed for so long. While there’s nothing wrong with this part of the story, it is still blatantly clear that it is only half of a whole, a half that has been dragged out for two hours might I add. The whole movie is not much other than build up for the big finale that we are only going to have to wait another year for.
For those who have read the book, you know that it was actually quite a short one, and in no way needed to be split up into two movies. This is where the biggest problem lies. There just wasn’t enough going on in the first half of the book to make a whole movie out of it. So because of this ridiculous trend of studios wanting a big cash grab on the finale of young adult book-to-movie adaptations, we are getting unfinished films with plots that have been unnecessarily dragged out. This is the shortest of the three Hunger Games films so far, but it feels like the longest. Was it a bad film? No, I did enjoy it. I just wish it came with the other half.
A lot of the other problems I have with the film is mainly due to the story itself, so basically, I blame the author for writing such a rubbish book (yeah, I said rubbish), and treating her main character like a helpless 5-year-old. If I had been reading a hard copy instead of reading it on my Kindle, I would’ve thrown it out the window and flicked a lighted match on it. I’m serious. Sorry to anyone who enjoyed it, but I hated it so much I’m almost tempted to write a whole post about how shitty I thought it was. Thankfully, the movie changed enough of the story in order to make it mostly enjoyable instead of the piece of crap it could’ve been. It may seem as though Katniss didn’t have much to do here, and sadly, it probably wasn’t enough, but in the book she was mainly either crying or passed out for the entire first half, so what you get here is truly a gift.
Jennifer Lawrence is amazing. I wish that Katniss took more control of her own life instead of being such a puppet, but at least Lawrence can play the puppet really well. A lot of the emotional parts of the film are tied to her character, and the fact that she feels helpless and useless despite being the symbol of hope for a lot of people. Most of her motivation comes from the thought of what the Capitol, who captured Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) in the last film, might be doing to him in retaliation. She sees the destruction of District 12 and the injured and dead who are fighting for their freedom because of her, and she knows she has a responsibility–regardless of if she ever wanted it in the first place–to play her part.
Aside from Lawrence’s performance, there is some emotionally powerful imagery in this film. For example, a large group of district dwellers carrying bombs run towards a dam that powers electricity into the Capitol. Meanwhile, the Peacekeepers shoot down whoever they can, and those in the front lines start dropping like flies. These people are willingly giving their lives for the slight chance they might be able to overthrow the Capitol and President Snow’s (Donald Sutherland) rule. Is blowing up a dam going to do that? No, but it is a small battle in a big war, and they’re ready to die for it. There’s a few other scenes like this of people in the districts fighting back, and those are honestly some of the best parts. Similar to in Catching Fire when Katniss and Peeta watch a man get shot for doing the District 12 gesture, it’s the scenes when shit gets real that you start to really care for the characters in the movie.
As far as the supporting characters go, some stand out while others fade into the background. Gale (Liam Hemsworth) has a personality that barely exists, he’s given almost no lines even with Peeta out of the picture for a short while. It’s a shame, really, because he could’ve potentially been one of the more useful characters in the film. Peeta is stuck at the Capitol and we don’t see much of him besides on the Capitol TV. The movie really belongs to Katniss this time around, as well as Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman). They are the two masterminds behind the rebellion, telling Katniss what to do and when to do it. Both are incredible actors, and it is a bit sad to see Hoffman on the screen knowing he’s not with us anymore, but I do love his part. There’s also a welcome addition of Cressida (Natalie Dormer), who not only looks like a badass with a half shaved head, but is the one in charge of filming Katniss’ propaganda videos as well as hyping her up for a good performance. Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) are two popular favorites and comic reliefs that are still around, and do well enough with the small parts they’ve been given.
There isn’t a ton of action in this movie, and like I said, it’s more focused on the politics of everything. President Snow taunts Katniss with videos of Peeta telling the districts to stand down, and Katniss and District 13 retaliate by making videos showing the horror and destruction the Capitol has caused in order to rile up the other districts. It goes along with a popular theme in films this year of how the media can hugely influence others. Katniss spends a lot of time trying to come to terms with what’s happening and the idea that Peeta could be in a lot of danger. Overall, not a ton of really consequential things happen. It could’ve been twenty minutes shorter and still gotten the job done. It does pick up towards the end, though.
The whole purpose of Mockingjay – Part 1 is to build up to something we aren’t going to see right away, so you have to be prepared for something that is quite different from the previous two films. Jennifer Lawrence’s performance alone makes this movie worth seeing. As a stand alone movie, I didn’t find it to be as good as the last one, but it was still enjoyable. Unfortunately, you can’t help but think it’s only there to service the real finale. Would it have been better as one movie? Probably. In the end, if you’re seeing this you’ll most likely be seeing the final installment too, and it’ll eventually all come together anyway.