The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 Review
Waking up on a cold metal bed to the news that District 12 had been destroyed, Katniss Everdeen wasn’t facing a great future at the end of Catching Fire. But despite the grim outlook, anticipation couldn’t have been higher for the arrival of the next installment, from returning Director Francis Lawrence.
Unlike the first two massively successful movies, which centred on Katniss’ survival of the Games, Mockingjay sees our favourite Suzanne Collins characters leave it all behind for a world of war. There’s no beating around the bush anymore - Katniss and her ‘co-conspirators’ have directly defied the Capitol and President Snow and are hiding out in the previously thought destroyed, District 13.
If the Capitol is founded on Snow’s charismatic dictatorship, then D13 better represents a military rule. Without the resources of the rest of Panem, D13 has survived by forming a socialist-type society where everyone works together, kept in check by the formidable President Coin, played by the flawless Julianne Moore.
It’s enjoyable to see Jennifer Lawrence’s performance shift as Katniss is thrown into a world she didn’t ask for. Fearing for Peeta’s safety and still dealing with the psychological effects of the Games, she now has to content with being moulded into the voice of the uprising as well. For someone we’re used to seeing play such a strong character, J-Law gives a remarkably realistic performance of a PTSD sufferer.
Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta Mellark takes a backseat in Mockingjay – Part I as he’s a prisoner of the Capitol (cue some impressive special effects to show the gradual effects of torture), and for once Katniss is with Gale, played by the returning Liam Hemsworth. Always a little on the periphery previously, Gale finally gets his moment as he recounts the destruction of D12 in haunting agony.
Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson are also back dealing with new challenges for their characters (Effie’s lack of cosmetic enhancements and Haymitch’s sobriety), and even though we’re seeing both characters out of their usual comfort zones, it only makes them more watchable.
Sam Claflin spends most of the film moping around after finding out his love is also in the hands of the Capitol but is worth mentioning thanks to his promo speech, which gives some interested insight into his life before the revolution, as well as President Snow’s mysterious illness. Donald Sutherland is on form as always as the cold-hearted leader, but all eyes are on Philip Seymour Hoffman who still takes a central role in Mockingjay – Part I, despite his tragic death.
In terms of news characters, there are plenty to choose from. Most notably, Julianne Moore who is the perfect realisation of the unyielding President Coin fans will remember from the books. We also see the appearance of Game Of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer as Katniss’ promo director and although it’s not a huge part, Cressida and her camera crew give some much needed direction to the film.
Mockingjay – Part I also sees the Panem’s masses take a more central role as the Capitol and the resistance fight for their allegiance. Although we’ve seen snippets of the Districts rebelling in previous films, Lawrence uses them to add some much needed action to the film. Look out for the chilling scene where they sacrifice themselves to knock out the power to the Capitol.
This is the first Hunger Games film not to centre around the brutal tournament and it does suffer for it. That’s not to say there isn’t danger and action a plenty, but sadly Mockingjay – Part I lacks the direction of the previous two films, in most part because there just isn’t enough material for two movies.
In comparison to the fast action and tense emotions of Catching Fire, Mockingjay – Part I feels slow and sluggish as Katniss spends most of her time hiding out in District 13. Even the attempts to inject some excitement into the storyline, with attacks from the Capitol and daring rescue attempts, only provide momentary relief from the repetitive script.
The decision to split the final book into two films was a controversial one and sadly it hasn’t done Mockingjay – Part I any favours. Fans will still flock to see the latest instalment of the much loved franchise but sadly, will leave feeling unsatisfied. Hopefully, the film’s few bright spots and the arrival of Part II next year will mean this disappointment isn’t long lived.