Harry Potter did it, Twilight did it, The Hobbit is continuing to do it (I wish Game of Thrones did more of it). Stretching out a book into more than one film is more than doable (I’m looking at you, Peter Jackson), but it’s all about choices.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 – which is actually the third film in the franchise – is a big departure from the first two films. This movie was suppose to be a “prize” for patient audience goers who loved The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. And, while it’s terrifically made with a lot of intrigue, the stakes aren’t high enough as audiences know that certain characters have to stay alive for the last film to work.
Audiences get to see much more of Panem, though it pretty much looks the same everywhere. The dreary, grey aesthetic only serves to lull audiences to sleep, and it’s didn’t even have to be this way.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 brings us back to Panem and picks up where Catching Fire left off: Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) joins the rebels in their bid to overthrow the dictatorial government. While the first two films were about the actual games and the control with which the government has over the populace, thanks to distraction and suppression, this last film is about propaganda.
For almost the entire film, we see Katniss film commercials, rallying the troops to rebel against the government, and vice-versa. It’s a film that finally ramps up the political intriquge and even touches on the dangrous edges of idealism with allegories that are relatable and resonate.
The story puts the entire The Hunger Games franchise at another level, since this isn’t and has never been about teenage angst. It’s a series about survival, the fight to maintain sanity within a mad world and how freedom is all about choice.
At the same time, nothing much happens other than chit-chat. While it’s entertaining to an extent, more than a few scenes simply drag on with little substance for the audience to mentally chew. Katniss in particular loses all the spark and thrill that was built-up during Catching Fire as she stays underground within the story.
New characters are thrown at the audience from all different directions and it’s difficult to pin down one performance that shines.
The entire film feels like a placeholder for the action to come, like cooking and smelling lasagna only to put it in the fridge. We’re having The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 for lunch next time, hopefully with extra sauce.
Jennifer Lawrence, John Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Elizabeth Banks, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland.