[This post is done as part of GaCoWriMo, my own personal twist to NaNoWriMo.]
The Hunger Games series is a prime example of something that I really want to be awesome but turns out just okay. The book trilogy started out in fine form but squandered an amazing concept in the second before petering out (or should that be Peeta-ring out?) in the final installment. The first two movies have followed similarly. Does Mockingjay Part 1 continue the pattern of the descent into mediocrity?
Sadly, it does.
As the first in the two-part finale, Mockingjay Part 1 has the unenviable job of stretching the lead-up to the climax without actually awarding the payoff of that climax. Scenes from the book are fleshed out and you can tell the filmmakers are trying to milk every bit of drama out of it. Unfortunately, there’s just so much they can do with material that simply isn’t meant to be translated into two films.
While the movie never gets too boring or slow, there just isn’t much of a build-up to anything. It just seems to meander from event to event, and even the “climatic” finish isn’t particularly exciting. Ultimately, Mockingjay Part 1 spends more than two hours navigating a series of (unfortunate) events that could have been covered in a fraction of that time and does so without any satisfying end. Even for a film that’s obviously “to be continued”, it feels like a waste of time.
Strangely, some of the editing and scene transitions are jarringly choppy, with big jumps in the timeline or events that feel out of place with the languid proceedings of the rest of the film. This rushing of the scenes feels especially odd considering they don’t really have anything to rush to.
This doesn’t mean the movie is without merits. The cast puts in an incredibly strong overall performance. Jennifer Lawrence, per her usual perfect self, carries the story valiantly, projecting just the right mix of fear, anger and frustration. Josh Hutcherson’s ramps up the chills in his way-too-few scenes as tortured, mindjacked Peeta and I cannot tell which is more impressively frightening – his CGI-ed neck and arms or his incredible emoting.
The supporting cast does a fantastic job, too. Donald Sutherland is coldly sinister as President Snow and no one does crazy zealot eyes better than President Coin Julianne Moore or haughty agent brought low better than Elizabeth Banks as Effie. Of particular note is Sam Claflin, who gets to turn in a far more nuanced this time round as a jittery Finnick.
Overall, Mockingjay Part 1 suffers primarily from having to fill the slot of unnecessary money-churner – a redundant third episode in what should clearly remain a trilogy but isn’t. The movie isn’t terrible, per se, just not very satisfying on its own. I would recommend waiting for the second part to come out before catching them both at once.