Film Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

The amount of hype that surrounded the release of the next instalment of The Hunger Games has been huge and has managed to create a voice that is loud enough to command debate amongst a raft of hotly talked about film.Peruvian Bears, Dwarves of Middle Earth and plenty of Comic Book reboots have all fallen mute to the arguments played out over whether this film is a purely cynical commercial move or an necessary and acceptable expansion to the franchise.

I came back into the franchise though, completely cold. I haven’t watched a Hunger Games film since I sat in the Cinema 12 months ago to watch Part 2: Catching Fire. And so, the first thing that really hit me was just how little back story this film rekindles. How little this film is capable of standing on it’s own two feet. If you’ve never seen any of the previous incarnations then do not start with a trip to see Mockingjay Part 1, because you will have no idea what is going on.

Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games Books

The story just kicks back into life. Almost assuming that everybody watching will have done their homework. It doesn’t need to tell you who, what or why: actions, events and sides have been created because, of course, you already know. You’ve already watched the films or read the books. And that is such a shame because it meant for me, having not relived the previous playing of the games, I spent the opening minutes confused and muddied, desperately trying to remember who was who and why.

Based on Suzanne Collins’ trilogy of books, a lot has already been said about the decision to split the final book into two films and while there is a gathering of dissenting voices that claim it’s for purely commercial reasons, having seen the film, I can potentially see the other side of the argument. I haven’t read the books, I don’t exactly know where the story goes, I can see the outline of its path to conclusion, but it’s based on estimation rather than knowledge. I believe The War is coming. And so, as long as, in 12 months time Part 2 treats me to 2 hours of non-stop action, of war and death and victory, either way, I can potentially accept breaking the story in two. I can potentially accept Mockingjay Part 1.

If you think about the franchise it’s easy to see that the original Hunger Games film was the creation of defiance. The second, a story of retaliation and the third should have been the collision. But what they’ve done is to split it essentially in half to create “Part 1” a film about propaganda before, hopefully, “Part 2” returns to being the film about collision. But it doesn’t work. There just isn’t enough source material to carry off this first film.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen - The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

We’re now treated to a film the lacks any depth. It almost knows it shouldn’t exist and therefore, doesn’t have any conviction in the punches it throws. Jennifer Lawrence does well bringing the post games stress and mental torture of Katniss Everdeen to life, but it just feels like one emotion repeated over and over again. Never really going anywhere and with nothing to back it up. The lack of back fill, the lack of how she arrived in this position mean that you cannot fully get behind her purely because you’re too busy trying to remember for yourself what happened in the previous films to feel any emotional for her.

Julianne Moore also comes into her own as the “leader of revolution”. But for me, her performance was just weak. She never looks like she has the conviction needed to be a leader. She gives these apparently motivational speeches to massed crowds and yet you never feel inspired and I constantly though that rather than follow her, the insanity born from restricted living would drive the ranks to mutiny against her. Even in her defining moments, her diction fails to pluck, let alone tug, any heart string.

I am massively disappointed in what The Hunger Games franchise has offered up with this film and I actually don’t believe it’s purely a marketing move. Honestly, I can see the film they were trying to make, the reason for the story they were trying to convey, but I just don’t think there was anything like enough material to justify it. Instead it’s left a film which is slow, plodding along unemotionally and confusingly dragging it’s unsustained running time out as much as possible. I spent large portions of the film looking at my watch wondering quite how 2 hours could feel this long.

Julianne Moore as President Coin -  The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

I can’t be too hard though, because while The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 really isn’t a good film, and will only summit the box office on reputation and name, I can see it’s place and I think that in the future, when you don’t have to wait 12 months for the story to continue, when Disc 1 can be followed by Disc 2, it may feel more complete and help bridge the story. But that day is a long way off and right now, it’s 45 minutes of narrative, ripped out of a 3 hour film and extended way beyond it’s means.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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