The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
Splitting a film’s final instalment makes perfect financial sense, but it certainly seems to be narratively damaging. As The Hunger Games edges towards its conclusion, the trilogy cum quadrilogy perhaps suffers from what shall henceforth be known as The Harry Potter Problem. Remember how the final book in that particular saga was stretched over two films, and the first one turned into Harry Goes Camping? Lots of walking and angst and not much else? Well, Mockingjay – Part One has a similar feel to it… like we are heading towards something but we know we’re not going to get there until next year. Until then, we have to be content with a whole lot of set-up.
It’s a relief then, that the set-up is done rather well. Fresh from destroying the games, we rejoin Katniss in District 13, which is essentially a massive underground bunker housing all the revolutionaries. Her home district has been razed to the ground and she is feeling pretty fucking miserable about the fact that Peeta remains in the Capitol. However, there is no time to mope because President Coin (played by Julianne Moore) wants her to be the symbol of rebellion.
Fans of the aesthetic of the first two films will be a little disappointed though. The fabulous fashion is at a minimum. Even Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) is dressed in her drab District 13 fatigues. I guess this is necessary as the movie is set away from the opulence of the Capitol and its tone is very downbeat (except for a few genuinely good gags here and there), but it does feel like a shame. The final act, also, is messy and confused. And the love triangle storyline continues to feel clunky.
The positives comfortably outweigh the negatives though. Obviously Jennifer Lawrence is great and Katniss remains a strong female role model. Philip Seymour-Hoffmann plays his role with charisma and a wry smile. It is still hard to fathom that he is no longer with us. Julianne Moore is a fine addition and, as usual, Elizabeth Banks steals many of the scenes. And the plight of the common person is brilliantly portrayed. The scenes of revolution in the face of peril and fear are expertly created and lead to genuine empathy. You really want these people to be free from their oppressors.
Just as the narrative started to heat up nicely though, it was all over. I haven’t read the Hunger Games novels, but it did rather feel like the film’s producers thought, ‘right, that’s the middle of the book reached. Roll credits’. The film certainly doesn’t end at an especially satisfactory point and there was no climactic finale. In The Empire Strikes Back, for instance, Luke *spoiler alert for those of you who haven’t managed to see the film any time in the last 30 years* gets his hand chopped off by his old man in an awesome lightsaber battle. Mockingjay – Part 1 didn’t really offer a standout set-piece.
Obviously until we see Part 2, we won’t really know if this dichotomy was necessary and successful, or whether it would have been better to have simply offered us one three-hour epic finale. However, in terms of set-up, Mockingjay – Part 1 does its job well. And rather than feeling underwhelmed or short-changed, we should simply look forward with excitement to what is to come next year. I guess the old adage of leaving your audience hungry for more applies here.
Review by Bobby Townsend.