Perhaps Mockingjay Part 1’s greatest flaw lies right in the name itself. The film is part tragedy, part romance and part incomplete.
The film adapts the first half of the final installment in Suzanne Collins’ young adult series, The Hunger Games, which depicts the fictional country of Panem, a dystopian world where resources are scarce and children are forced to kill each other in annual televised death matches.
The film follows a similar trend adopted by other franchises, including Harry Potter and Twilight, in splitting the last book into two consecutive films. However, like Mockingjay, these books are already entire tales within themselves. Mockingjay Part 1 comes across overall as uneventful and lacking in excitement, and serves as a prime example on how final books are not meant to be two tales in one, but one complete story.
Mockingjay Part 1 begins shortly after Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), former Hunger Games winner and face of a burgeoning rebellion against the Capitol, escapes from her second time in the games. After her rescue, Katniss finds herself in District 13, a hidden underground base where living members of destroyed districts are seeking refuge until a plan is formed to overthrow the Capitol. Initially distressed and reluctant to take her title as the Mockingjay, the symbol of hope for the revolution, Katniss agrees after seeing the destruction of her home in District 12 and learning that her tribute partner and on-screen lover, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) has been captured by the Capitol.
While the film includes a few thrilling instances, such as Katniss’ moving speech at a makeshift hospital and her riveting quest to rescue Peeta, Mockingjay Part 1 often finds itself scraping at the bottom of the barrel to stretch the film for over two hours with material that can be told in 30 minutes.
However, the film the does the best that it can do under the circumstances. Director Francis Lawrence does a commendable job in setting the tone for the series’ final installment. Though the film is dull at times and tends to drag on, Lawrence’s directing paired with dynamic performances by the cast make the film enthralling nonetheless.
Having also directed the film’s predecessor, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Lawrence once again succeeds in creating an aesthetically beautiful, yet tragic world. Though the film is primarily set in the bunkers of District 13, Lawrence uses color beautifully to distinguish between the muted tones of heartbreaking Panem and the brightness of the thriving Capitol.
Jennifer Lawrence once again is captivating in her portrayal of a young girl thrust into the front lines of a rapidly advancing rebellion. As Katniss, she delivers a performance where she cries, gives speeches and rescues cats, all of which solidify her as a true force in acting.
Hutcherson is haunting in his portrayal of a brainwashed Peeta. The character, who is typically wide-eyed and cheerful, is shed completely of hope in Hutcherson’s chilling performance, which exhibit the actor’s incredibly versatile talent.
One of the few highlights of the film was Elizabeth Banks’ reprisal of her role as Effie Trinket, an ex-member of the Capitol who is stripped of her dramatic makeup and costumes, but not of her flamboyant personality. Banks’ hilarious portrayal brings light to the dullness of the screen.
Julianne Moore, acting veteran and a newcomer to the franchise, is engrossing as District 13’s President Coin, the stoic and duplicitous general of the rebellion. It is also important to note that Philip Seymour Hoffman receives a posthumous tribute at the end of the film for his charming and deserved portrayal of Plutarch Heavensbee.
However, not all the members of the cast delivered their strongest performances as seen in Liam Hemsworth, who portrays Katniss’ childhood friend Gale Hawthorne. Hemsworth finally receives the screentime his character deserves, but unfortunately those scenes are filled with a dull and monotonous performance.
All in all, Mockingjay Part 1 is good, but not great. Missing the complex arenas and horrifying murders that made The Hunger Games a household name, the film pales in comparison to its predecessors. However, if there’s one thing Mockingjay Part 1 did right, it’s that it makes the audience hungry for the final installment in The Hunger Games series.
Photo Credit: Murray Close/Lionsgate