It feels like nearly every single major film series based off a book series , has their last entry split into two films. Some may like this trend, some may condemn it, but the studios for sure love it (reason why? answer: $$$$). That isn’t to say splitting a book into multiple parts can’t work. The “Harry Potter” series was the first to do it with “Deathly Hallows” and it more than succeeded. Also “The Hobbit” was broken up into what is so far a great trilogy. “Twilight” is an example of dragging out your finale into two parts. We’re all hoping that the talented crew behind “The Hunger Games” would find a way to make a two part finale worth the price of two tickets. “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I” is worth the price of admission and does hold enough material and emotional weight to make the overlong two hour film worth the watch. Yet even with it captivating themes and stand out scenes, I can’t help but feel that the split hurt the overall movie and is the weakest (yet still rewarding) “Hunger Games” entry.
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I” picks up where “Catching Fire” left off after the rescue of Katniss at the 75th annual Hunger Games. Katniss is taken to the long forgotten District 13, where they hope she can become a symbol for a revolution against the capital. Reluctantly taking them up on their offer in hopes to save Peeta from the capital. Yet President Snow is not ready to give up his iron fist control of the nation of Panem and will continue to pump fear into the public mind to keep them at bay.
The best part about this movie is a very interesting back and forth political game of chest that the rebels and the capital play against one another. The capital makes some propaganda videos to regain control of the civil unrest while the rebels have to counter that with propaganda of their own and Katniss is the center piece of that. It’s a brilliant parable on own society. Media influence is at a all time high and this story shows how Government and different groups can manipulate it their liking to make a strong impact on the people. Many times this will remind you more of the political thriller “Wag the Dog” than a “Hunger Games” film
These are themes that not normally attributed to young adult novels. If they are, they are dumb down for their target audience. “Hunger Games” avoids this and sheds it’s young teen image with “Mockingjay”; it’s the darkest themed story yet. The imagery of war and desolation is taken straight out pictures of World War II particularly the war in Europe after the firebombing both the Nazi’s and Allies campaigned with. The series never beats anyone over the head with their messages and neither does “Mockingjay”.
Jenifer Lawrence returns as Katniss Everdeen. Lawrence continues to own the screen as her character needs to summon the strength to rise up and help lead the rebellion. Yet the character continues to be more and more damaged. Like in “Catching Fire” she is still going through Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and the effects of the Hunger Games and this pending war begins to wear down on her. Lawrence plays both to her strengths; when Katniss is able to summon to sprit to lead she is a commanding prescience. Then when she needs to play up the weaknesses of her character, she is able too. If anyone continues to have doubts about her (which I can’t imagine why one would) this is yet another example of her wickedly gifted talents.
“Mockingjay” may have a lot of strengths and returning director Francis Lawrence directs a confident and well made picture. Yet, this is the weakest in the series thus far. Most of the problems stem from being a two part picture. The movie drags in certain parts and others it feels like the filmmakers are grasping at straws trying to find something to pad out a two hour runtime. There is a lot of repetition, where one scene will drive a point across to the audience, then do it again later, when only one of those scenes would have sufficed (a similar problem that “The Judge” ran into).
I kept believing that there is a way to split these films into two parts (for god sakes they split “The Hobbit” into three and made it somehow work) yet when watching the film you realize that around 95% of the movie is from Katniss’s perspective, and that hurts the structure. It makes sense to have this taken place from Katniss’s perspective (since she is our main character) but that limits what you can do on screen because you have to have Katniss there. Perhaps getting away from just her viewpoint more often and show more of the social revolutions going on in Panem would have benefited the picture greatly.
They did this a few times with citizens of different districts rising up to fight against the oppressors (in a way that you cannot help but think about Civil Rights history in America). When that was happening on screen the narrative got more intriguing and engaging and perhaps if they got away more from Katniss a bit more, the story wouldn’t have felt so padded out.
For full disclosure I have not read the books either. So, perhaps taking this extra part to develop some of the characters will greatly benefit what is to come in Part II. Yet I can’t judge just on the assumption that the next entry will hopefully capitalize on the groundwork Part I set up for. As a film as a whole, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I” is a well made picture with social and political themes relevant to our own; with terrific acting and directing. “Mockingjay” does have plenty of emotional intensity but the film as a whole feels too long and parts of the narrative feel thin and ill conceived. This is a good but weaker entry in “The Hunger Games” saga.