Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
“That’s the worst torture,” says one stoic rebel to another amid a rescue mission during a violent revolution. “Waiting when you know there is nothing you can do. ”Such is the prevailing feeling as you endure The Hunger Games Mockingjay: Part 1, a segmented, insufficient piece of storytelling that should be a bigger puzzle, and instead makes you wait for what is to come.
This third installment in the futuristic dystopia series sees true the fears aroused by one word in the title: Part. It is one of two to conclude this franchise, with the latter coming next year, but this penultimate film and the finale are based upon one book, and Part 1 is every bit scrawny, slowly biding time for what hopes to be a rousing ending.
There are no more Hunger Games here; Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has spurred a revolution and is tapped as the symbol to inspire and lead. Her family safely secured – well, they are with her in the underground District 13 – she turns her attention to her captured comrades, ever the selfless and determined heroine.
However, there are plenty of moving pieces around her, so many that they don’t quite add up to something whole under director Francis Lawrence. Close advisors Effie (Elizabeth Banks) and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) have returned, and brainiac victor Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) has been enlisted to help revolutionary leaders President Coin (Julianne Moore) and former Games creator turned PR consultant Plutarch Heavensbee (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman). They are all trying to fight President Snow, played by a scene-chewing Donald Sutherland who feels like he is always stroking his beard even if he isn’t. Katniss also still has her doting, boring D-12 friend Gale (a sadly wooden Liam Hemsworth that oddly seems a child of Tony Danza and John Travolta) and the once cavaliar Finnick (Sam Claflin), now in despair too.
What’s more, we meet a military production crew set to showcase Katniss and her heroic deeds in order to inspire. We oscillate between these various figures and their clashing tones –from the funny and cute to the ominous and grave to the dull and repetitive – in a film that does a lot of talking and preparing for something greater with scenes that serve to pad a runtime crawling to two hours.
While the tease that concluded the second, more superior film saw our heroine confused and at the subject of men explaining things to her, this third film runs with that framework throughout. Too often what is happening in the world is being conveyed to an addled, angered Katniss while action takes place off screen. What little action there is seems forced and jarring. No fewer than four characters get a chance to deliver stirring speeches that come close to electrifying but never quite make it.
Good will built up from previous films and a passionate fan base is wasted; we are ready to give ourselves to a magnetic Jennifer Lawrence and an impressive cast, but you never feel it in your socks. There is no sense of peril, no stirrings of revolution, and certainly no scope or size to Panem, a world of featuring an ominous capital and 12-ish oppressed districts.
Joined by the upcoming film, Mockingjay Part 1 would look better; instead it’s a lot of chatter and rumblings in an incomplete film that hopefully is getting ready for something special.