The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
The Short- When The Hunger Games split it’s finale into two films almost everyone freaked out in the negative. Luckily those freak-outs were totally unwarranted, Francis Lawrence keeps proceedings moving at a good pace and thanks to a cast that turns in wonderful performances with a film containing more than its fair share of action and intrigue give us the best Hunger Games to date.
The Hunger Games has been the one YA dystopia series to stick out, thanks in large part to it’s smart as hell casting. They brought in the hottest star in the business with Jennifer Lawrence, and you bring in some of the better actors to embody some incredibly nuanced characters. Lawrence is as usual terrific in Francis Lawrence’s second of three Hunger Games sequels. Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen is electrifying when she needs to be and an understated emotional character when the scene calls for it but either way Lawrence brings something that very few actresses could. She also brought legitimacy to the series that very few of the YA adaptions saw, an Oscar award winner who doesn’t need a wordy script and obvious plot points to deliver a clever performance. It helps too that she has a supporting cast of award winners that include the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci Jeffrey Wright, and the MVP of the supporting cast Donald Sutherland who in my opinion has quickly become one of the best villains we have seen on screen in the last decade as the omnipresent bastard President Snow. Sutherland spends time chewing the scenery and delivers an incredibly hateful performance (That’s a compliment, bear with me). Every time Sutherland is on screen you begin to understand just how great this guy’s comeuppance needs to be in the series finale next year. All The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 was supposed to do was get the film to a place where its blockbuster finale could serve up the emotional conclusion that the Harry Potter series received. For the most part Mockingjay Part 1 is set up but the set-up is an exciting political thriller, a game of he said, she said where it’s most important aspect is Katniss vs. the now tortured; delusional Peeta is being brought out in front of camera’s to quell the rebellion that Katniss is now the leader of. The battle of war propaganda is the films best asset, it allows us to see Lawrence at her emotional best while Hutcherson who may not appear on camera for long periods throughout the film still gives an engaging performance as Peeta.
I will admit I at first understood the complaints of fans wanting this series to be a trilogy and not have to wait a year for the films finale, it’s a cash grab move created by Warner Brothers and to prolong the Potter series. That all being said, it actually works, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1 was not a bad movie and neither is Mockingjay Part 1. In fact I left Part 1 believing it was the best film in the series, even if I took issue with a few of the plot points. For Example at one point district 13 President Alma Coin (The always great Julianne Moore) is reticent to putting Katniss into the field to get shots of her fighting the capitol attacks on other districts claiming she is a “civilian”. The girl won the games in the first film and with a bit of help from the friends that are present with her she began a rebellion that has thrown the entire nation into chaos and in her first trip into the field she knocks two bombers out of the air with one damn arrow and the help from Gale (Liam Hemsworth) so let’s pretend for a moment that this girl is as badass as she has been presented to us on film through two movies shall we. My other issue with Mockingjay Part 1 was the how not a single person other than Katniss could see that Peeta was malnourished, and under the influence of something other than his wits. By the time Peeta delivers his final transmission as a pet of the capitol he’s beginning to look like Christian Bale from the Machinist and no one can tell? Maybe it’s a testament to Hutcherson’s performance of selling it but mostly it’s crappy writing. That’s not to say the entire film is poorly written, obviously I enjoyed it but it’s just a few lazy moments that keep you saying “Oh right this is Part 1 and it needs to go 2 hours because Hollywood”.
No matter your opinion of the books and I know for a fact that Mockingjay was the book most readers didn’t enjoy as much as the others or so I have been told but Francis Lawrence’s direction and his fantastic cast of award winning, quality actors and actresses that deliver a sequel that will give fans what they want and make you just as excited for Part 2 this time next year.