Director: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Release Date: Thursday 20th November, Roadshow Films
At the peak of the young adult adaptation mountain sits The Hunger Games. It is perched at the top, looking down on it’s followers, taunting them with its worldwide success, phenomenal cast and critical acclaim. The newest film to arrive is The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. The first half of the final goodbye from the franchise and unfortunately, its first slip down from the mountain’s peak.
Mockingjay Part 1 finds our hero Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, in District 13 after the events of Catching Fire. She is shattered, broken, suffering from post-traumatic stress and grieving the loss of Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). Under the leadership of President Coin (Julianne Moore) and advisement of Effie (Elizabeth Banks), Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and of course, Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Katniss struggles to become what is expected of her: the symbol of the rebellion. The Mockingjay.
This is a Hunger Games movie without an actual Hunger Games. This is now war. The result is a disappointing, some would say ultimately boring movie; All smoke and no flame. It is bittersweet, since Catching Fire was such an extraordinary film that left us wanting more.
It is the shortest of the Hunger Games movies thus far but it feels the longest thanks to its particularly slow and dull plot. The plot doesn’t pick up in either its pace or story until more than halfway through its two-hour running time, therefore making it easy to question why the producers and studio thought it would be best to split the final book into two films. Greed, perhaps? Because it certainly wasn’t for story purposes; more than half of this film could have been easily cut. In the editing room.
Was it so audiences could more closely follow Katniss’s journey? Perhaps. But she is nothing more than a spectator for majority of this film. She takes no part in the massing of troops, the public execution or the raids. She is back in District 13 filming propaganda videos and being mopey, wallowing in her grief rather than taking any real action. This is not the girl-on-fire that audiences love. Lawrence gives her most mediocre performance as Katniss to date, but this is hardly her fault. She’s given nothing to play with in this movie. Katniss is arguably the most popular heroine in decades and she is forced to sit on the sidelines for the entire movie.
Josh Hutcherson is non-existent for most of the film and Liam Hemsworth gets to make up for lost screen time, but he is also given nothing to play with. Gale follows Katniss around, not really saying or doing anything of merit. Their non-existent chemistry is never more obvious than it is when Katniss kisses him. Gale accurately notes that she does it because “…I’m in pain. That’s the only way I can get your attention.”
It doesn’t feel like a fluid movie. The editing is choppy, shabby at its best and resembling more of a first cut than a final cut. When audiences laugh after a pivotal moment that could be considered the most heightened, intense and anticipated scene of the film, that is when you know your editor has done a bad job. Unfortunately that happened in the screening we were in.
The script is also hokey and contrived, written by relative newcomers Danny Strong and Peter Craig who can’t capture the world like the Oscar nominated Gary Ross did in the first outing of the Hunger Games, or come anywhere close to the extraordinary script that Oscar winners Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt wrote for Catching Fire.
Mockingjay Part 1 is disappointingly nothing more than a placeholder until 2015 where its other (and hopefully better) half is released.
A disappointing first half that undervalues and underuses its key assets.