It’s very obvious to me when people don’t have something whole to say. You gets bits and pieces of a story and then there’s a lot of extra stuffing and extending of said story. It obvious that they have more to say, but they’re testing your patience and want you to get invested early and wait for the good part. Rest assured, the good part comes eventually. That being said, you do have to make it through an incomplete story that will certainly leave you annoyed.
After destroying the forcefield with her lighting arrow, ultimately ending the Quarter Quell, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) was lifted from the field and taken to District 13. All her life and everyone’s life, Katniss was lead to believe that District 13 was destroyed and that there was no one left. Instead, the opposite is true and there is an army growing underground, waiting to attack the capital. District 13’s President Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) believe that Katniss could be the Mockingjay symbol that they need to inspire revolution in the other districts, but Katniss’ worry for the captured Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) gets in the way of things.
Before Katniss came to, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) issued an attack on District 12 as a punishment and has begun executing anyone affiliated with the Mockingjay. Fortunately, Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Finnick (Sam Claflin), Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), Effie (Elizabeth Banks), and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) all managed to survive and are willing to help Katniss, should she come around to the idea of being the face of the revolution. Everything is changing and there’s not much time to spare, so Katniss must decide what to do before it’s too late for everyone.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 perfectly exemplifies everything I despise about two-part finales, as it teases something greater and barely manages to make do with the interactions of new characters, little action, and tiptoeing around the larger issue. Yes, it’s certainly the most thematic of the films thus far, but that doesn’t mean that these themes get due exploration. I understand that there’s a ton of important information to get across, but there have to be better ways to go about explaining everything. Only getting hints and small reveals is obnoxious and everything feels like a Marvel movie, where they’re more focused on building something bigger. This is easily my least favorite of the Hunger Games series, but it’s not all that bad. Still, it needs a lot of work.
Jennifer Lawrence, again, holds everything together with her dominating presence on-screen. Her performance here is a bit more emotional and exhausting, but she displays a wide range of emotions and adds a hint of physicality here and there. She continues to inhibit the “I didn’t ask for this leadership role” and she still manages to make it work. It helps that Liam Hemsworth gets more of a focus in this film and it’s a more emotional one than we’ve seen before. The love triangle continues to increase the drama, but it’s handled better here. Hutcherson isn’t around for too long, but his intent is clear and he does exactly what he needs to do.
Thematically, Mockingjay is all over the place and brings up a lot of potential for the film’s second part. Rebellion is a key part of this film and the way in which it’s dealt with is intriguing. Selling the revolution is a fun and dangerous concept and it plays out surprisingly well on-screen. There are also instances of espionage and covert ops missions that do add some excitement to this film, especially those involving explosions and silence. Elizabeth Banks manages to steal the show again with her over-the-top performance and Jeffrey Wright gets a bit more to do here as well. There is a lot of foreshadowing going on here and it looks like we could be in for quite a treat with the next film.
That being said, way more effort and care should have gone in to this film, as opposed to setting up the last of the series. This is a standalone film and should be treated as such. Instead, we getting surface level tension that we don’t care too much for because the writers and directors don’t either. Julianne Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman are two of the best actors/actresses you could hope to work with and they’re practically wasted in this film. We learn nothing about them, aside from what their basic jobs and thoughts are. They serve a far greater purpose than we’re told, but they’re relegated to boring dialogue and we never spend any time alone with them. Though we met him before, Sam Claflin’s Finnick has nothing to do in this film and he’s all but wasted as well.
After Catching Fire, I was ecstatic about the potential of two more films just like it. Catching Fire was fun, exciting, suspenseful, engaging, full of wonderful characters, and Mockingjay was rarely any of these things. Since it spends its time and effort on setting up a sequel, we’re left with stale dialogue and drawn-out sequences that seem more like filler time. Nothing was ever really surprising, save for one scene in the end, and everything plays out exactly as you’d expect it to.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is just okay. It never does anything extraordinary and everyone involved just looks worn out. It’s not that what they’re doing is inconsequential, but it definitely feels that way. Every character in this film is emotional and the emotion takes precedence over the action, which will come next year. Katniss and her crew are slowly building to something spectacular, but for now you’ll have to settle for mediocre action and a lot of talking. The cast is great and talented, but they’re clearly waiting for more to do. On a side-note, Jennifer Lawrence’s wig looks awful and something needs to be done about it.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Trailer