The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 Reviews
The odds are clearly not in Katniss Everdeen's (Jennifer Lawrence) favor: her sister was reaped for the Hunger Games, so she volunteered to keep her safe. She made the Capitol look stupid with the help of Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), and while she tried to tend to the flame, she couldn't quell it, and so, the fire of rebellion caught and burned brightest. Now, the flame is settling, and seems poised to die down. After seeing Katniss hiding from District 13 officials in some random pipe room, continuing Jennifer Lawrence's fine and tasteful PTSD performances, we see her settling into her new role as the mockingjay when Commander Boggs (Mahershala Ali) escorts her to a meeting with Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), who try persuading her to be the mockingjay for them. What follows is a story of war and propaganda that was all there in the book, but is the focus of this movie that covers the first 45% (rough estimate) of the book, and while it works out mostly, there is a serious pacing issue (this series seems to just have so many of these), which may or may not have anything to do with the splitting of the book into two parts: it takes 50 minutes to truly start, though they still have some dark action in the form of President Snow (Donald Sutherland) commentating over public executions in two of the districts where rebels (or as he calls it to avoid legitimizing them "radicals") whose faces are covered (my guess to avoid humanizing them in the eyes of the undecided). We don't see Katniss in action until 50 minutes in, but then she goes back to being a person who's ruined. She gets her act together and does a propaganda shoot in District 12, then the rest of the movie happens, and if you read the book, I think my 45% estimate of how far in the story they get will inform you of that. What really hurts the pacing in my book is that a cliffhanger would have been more exciting than what they did. Something those who haven't read the books would appreciate to maintain interest, while letting us readers/audiobook listeners feel they made good effort to split it up. Otherwise, everything they put/did on screen was for a reason, to advance what little plot-from-the-book they used. Katniss' journey continues to entertain and her drive to protect those she loves and to do what she "never asked for." The picture and effects are great, and District 13 is perfectly established as militaristic and efficient, from the dull grey clothes everyone (even the president) wears to the dull scenery, especially when you compare it to the Capitol's lavish scenery, colorful outfits, and bright, colorful scenery. James Newton Howard once again brings a great soundtrack conveying the appropriate emotions, and it's used appropriately, whether the only sounds we hear at the beginning are ambience and dialogue, or the blaring soundtrack over big action (One scene towards the end really benefits from seemingly dead silence). We get some good comic relief in Katniss' first attempts at being the mockingjay on a soundstage, and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) brings the usual sarcasm and brutal honesty of his character to the meeting table to keep things interesting. The odds were clearly not in Lionsgate's favor to split Mockingjay into two movies, but it can still be saved by quality effects and a camera that only shakes when it's truly necessary. A fine film about war and propaganda dragged down by horrible pacing that makes us wish it took over an hour to get to the titular event.
The games are over. The war has begun. With the controversial, yet perpetual, choice to split every book into two movies (3 in one short case ;)) you would be led to believe Mockingjay Part 1 would suck compared to the past two Hunger Games movies. You're wrong. It's not as good as the first two, but this has its moments and stands on its own. We start with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) still recoiling from the events of the 75th Hunger Games. After seeing her cower in a corner, it takes a while for things to get started: After waking up from another nightmare, Katniss is escorted to command by Boggs (Mahershala Ali), where Plutarch Heavensbee (The late and great Philip Seymour Hoffman) introduce Katniss to President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), who asks Katniss to be the face of the rebellion. She refuses, and when she and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) are eating, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) appears on the Capitol's broadcast with Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) to discuss the recent games. After the dining hall condemns Peeta's "ceasefire" request to both sides, Katniss gets an idea from her sister Prim (Willow Shields) to negotiate immunity for Peeta and other rescued victors in exchange for being the mockingjay. Coin grudgingly accepts these terms in front of all of District 13 with the "void if you renege" clause. What follows is Katniss being shepherded from place to place by Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) director Cressida (Natalie Dormer) and various other crew members to make "propos" for the war effort. It takes a solid 40 minutes for things to really start moving. You can distinguish the plot though, and when we do get there, it is very compelling, whether you're a fan of old (Like me) or a newcomer (?). The new District 13 people are overly pragmatic, which makes them unrelatable to most people. They are shown to have a human side, which helps remind us of the human factor in all this, so they cancel out. The picture here is pretty much District 13 as I (and probably most of you) envisioned, with maybe a few differences here and there. There is a lot more CGI here in this Hunger Games (Hunger Wars?) than the first two, given the broader scope (The amount of millions that went into the first one was in the double digits), and a lot more hovercraft, but battered throughout are resistance to the Capitol and threads to be picked up in Part 2. James Newton Howard's soundtrack does everything a movie soundtrack should do, and between that and Katniss' song "Hanging Tree" it compels us and kills time until Part 2. It's not all doom-and-gloom: There are a few laughs, sprinkled throughout, but now, we must ask ourselves: Is all this story splitting really necessary? I'd like to call on both sides to return to the good old way: One solid movie adaptation of one solid book. This formula works with how they did it, but for how long?
The games are over. No holds barred. This is what we have waited for since the games began: For the Mockingjay to stretch her wings (or at least start to). This will feel slow (despite being the shortest installment of the series) to those who do not read the books, but for those who do, you will be rewarded with understanding the story and it will move faster. This film is not for newcomers, so be prepared or be confused! However, Francis Lawrence does everything he can to give newcomers a better idea of what's going on. The Mockingjay herself, Jennifer Lawrence, really brings Katniss to life: She seems genuinely panicked when Katniss has panic attacks, and she really shows how Katniss has changed since she volunteered to save her sister from the Hunger Games. Julianne Moore is exactly how Coin was intended to be in the books: Cold and stoic, but she makes this one kinder to Katniss than she ever was in the book. Elizabeth Banks surprisingly returns as District 12 escort Effie Trinket, this time, looking more human, but instead of knowing everything, is a total fish out of water. Haymitch has also changed this time, forced into sobriety. Drunk or sober, Woody Harrelson owns the role again. Philip Seymour Hoffman, God rest his soul, once again provides a brilliant Plutarch Heavensby. This is not a list of book-movie differences/similarities, so we now find ourselves with the visual aspect: It was great. Everything is there for a reason, and there is plenty of symbolism. For example, in the bombing of District 13, the lights flickering was both what would happen in real life, and symbolized how hectic the situation was. There is more, but those things = Spoilers. The effects were believable, and the action was spectacular! James Newton Howard swings by for a third round of scoring, incorporating old scores (No Panem anthem this time, #DownwithSnow) and making a few new ones. However, to make up for this, when there are important conversations, there is no sound except that dialogue to make you listen. And these spring up throughout, resulting in the aforementioned slow-pace. It does however highlight the importance, and does not reek of film maker laziness. It should also be noted Katniss' "The Hanging Tree," written in the book by Suzzane Collins herself, was incorporated fashionably. The dialogue was still near-similar to the book, and was done appropriately. Another note: Profanity free. So as Joanna Mason once said to the Capitol "(Explicit comment removed)" The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is the first-half of the film we've all been waiting for, but despite being half (less than actually) a book, you still feel it was its own story. The Mockingjay has expanded her wings, now we sit and wait a whole year for her to take flight! May the odds be ever in our favor to wait that long one more time!
Starring:Jennifer Lawerence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, Robert Knepper, Sam Claflin, Lily Rabe, Evan Ross, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, and Elizabeth Banks
Directed By: Francis Lawrence
FIRE BURNS BRIGHTER IN THE DARKNESS
The Biggest problem with the new Hunger Games film is right there in the title:Part 1 Mockingjay, the final installment in Suzane Collins dystopian trilogy wasn't conceived in two parts. That was a decsion made in Hollywood by a studio looking to double and milk every last dime out of its blockbuster franchise. The suits probably thought "Hey it worked out well for Twilight and Harry Potter, so why not us?" You can't blame them for wanting to keep the good times rolling. But it's a pretty cynical business plan, and it's led to a film that feels needlessly padded. Mockingjay Part 1 is like someone in my school doing a paper and there is a limit you need to get too and they just want too jack it up.
This is very disappointing because the previous chapter Catching fire, I thought exceeded the first film and helped the franchise, cause I did not like the first film it's a battle royal rip off. Catching Fire though gave the main character Katniss played excellently by Jennifer Lawerence into a brainy badass. Now she is become passive.
The film picks up after the incendiary conclusion of catching Fire's Quarter Quell, when Katniss was rescued and brought to the rebels, underground fortress in District 13. Here, the anti-capital leaders plot their next strike against president Snow(Donald Sutherland), hatching a plan to turn Katniss into fiery symbol of the resistance in a propaganda war as their secret weapon known as the mockingjay.
The film is interesting, the suffering this film has is that to me I felt bored while watching this latest entire in the hunger games series.
The performances are ultimately what kept me me invested and interested in what was going on, but the script feels like such a jumbled mess that I didn't care what was going on.
I suppose director Francis Lawerence and writers Peter Craig and Danny Strong deserve some credit for daring to sneak any political cheekiness into a movie that's as big and corporate as this. But overall their hands are tied too tightly.
While the series' second film had better character development, Mockingjay is mostly bound to the bleak and claustraphobic bowels of a bunker. It suffocates the film. And when the story does get interesting and you know something important is about to happen the movie ends. That's not a cliff-hanger that's a tease. I give The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 a two and a half out of five.