The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

When Katniss destroys the games, she goes to District 13 after District 12 is destroyed. She meets President Coin who convinces her to be the symbol of rebellion, while trying to save Peeta from the Capitol.

The third film in the supremely popular Hunger Games series is the weakest thus far as it focuses more on the politics between the Capitol and the rebels at the expense of the ‘battle to the death’ format of the first two films. I still enjoyed the film, but there’s two main factors that make this a slightly disappointing entry in the series. The first is to do with the nature of finales being split into two parts, and more than most, ‘Mockingjay – Part 1‘ really suffers from this. There’s a tendency to save all the good stuff for ‘Part 2’ or the true finale, and there’s definitely a feeling of treading water within this entry.

The second factor comes as a direct result of the first, and of the nature of where the plot happens to be at the end of ‘Catching Fire‘, with the underuse of some of the best characters and actors. One of the main strengths of the Hunger Games series besides the inspired casting of Jennifer Lawrence as the heroine Katniss, has been the terrific casting in the supporting roles. Throughout the course of the series, seasoned performers and award winners such as Woody Harrelson, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Donald Sutherland have played key roles, with Julianne Moore joining the ensemble for ‘Mockingjay‘. The problem in ‘Mockingjay – Part 1‘ is that none of these performers are given much to do, with the characters confined for the most part to one room in a kind of nuclear bunker in District 13, previously believed to be destroyed. The sidelining of Harrelson’s Haymitch is as much a symptom of the book’s plot I’m sure, but it’s a problem for the film as it removes a key character who was capable of providing some light relief amidst all the darkness, and this is the darkest in the series yet.

I’ve talked a lot about what I didn’t like so much, and I did enjoy the film overall. In terms of the plot, we pick up shortly after the events of ‘Catching Fire‘, where Katniss, Finnick and the leaders of the rebels are hiding out in District 13, whilst Peeta and a couple of other characters are being used as propaganda tools by the Capitol and Donald Sutherland’s President Snow. A lot of the film focuses on the propaganda war, as both sides put out various videos and interviews to try and win the support of the other districts in Panem, and there’s various solid scenes as Katniss is forced to confront the full scope of the Capitol’s barbarity. Some of this is compelling, but it always feels like we’re building to the events of Part 2, and the stakes in the major set pieces of this film feel relatively small compared with what’s gone before (and what I suspect is yet to come). Jennifer Lawrence is still an excellent lead star and she handles the more sombre and emotional material just as well as the action sequences from the previous films, and she’s the major reason why this has been such a successful franchise.

Ultimately, ‘Mockingjay – Part 1‘ is a solid table setting entry in the Hunger Games series that focuses more on political intrigue than the previous two films, and whilst it’s the weakest effort yet, it promises a dramatic finale to come.

Rating: 3/5

Directed By: Francis Lawrence

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland, Natalie Dormer, Sam Claflin, Stanley Tucci and Jeffrey Wright

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