The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 ReviewJoe Shaffer
Having read the Hunger Games trilogy, I will admit that I wasn't looking forward to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 when it hit theaters. Sure, I was intent on viewing it, but I figured it wouldn't be the most engaging film in the franchise, because I struggled to get through the first half of the book. You see, much of the novel "Mockingjay" consists of yammering here, chatting there, politics, politics, politics, more talking, a little action, and some merely okay turns in the plot. No, I'm not the kind of guy who expects nonstop action from a novel, but the amount of gabbing it contained was frustrating, and I didn't know how well that would translate to a two hour movie.
Thankfully, the filmmakers didn't totally flub this project. As with its predecessors, it's marvelously shot, showing you more grim bits of Panem, including the ruins of a certain district, and even the sterile environment in which Katniss and company are currently dwelling. My favorite bits, visually speaking, come towards the end when Gale and a few other folks enter the capital to recover some captive buddies. The shots of their ship flying through the now-quiet city are chilling, because you expect there to be a trap lying in wait for them. It's all in the stillness surrounding their cruiser as it hovers through the city, not to mention their ease of entry into the shadowy urban environment.
I also have to commend the casting department on booking Julianne Moore for the role of President Coin. With the exception of Hannibal, I've enjoyed Moore's work and have always thought she's a wonderful actress. She pretty well nails Coin, a typical two-faced politician who's a fantastic orator but a cold cynic at heart. Mostly, it's in her obviously fraudulent vocal tone and excellently rehearsed speeches. Of course, all of the familiar faces do a fine job in this film as well, but that's to be expected.
Despite the awesome scenery and the presence of Julianne Moore, the movie still isn't quite up to scratch. I'm not saying that it's a bad flick by any stretch, but holy crap is it slow. Much of the movie revolves around Katniss starring in a set of propaganda films--called "propos"-- for District 13, with her cast as a symbol of rebellion known as "The Mockingjay." Much of the film leading up to these propos involves a fair amount of characters negotiating with Katniss, cast members relating to one another what they did during the final moments of Catching Fire, and everyone laying out strategies. Suffice it to say that it's a very talkie movie, even if it's not as drawn out and torturous as the first half of the novel was.
Mockingjay - Part 1's less chatty scenes do help keep the pacing from dropping totally off, but don't always justify the wait. There's a scene, for instance, that's both haunting and spectacular in which one district rebels against the Peacekeepers while in a forest that's both. While it's great to watch the workers finally fight back against the Capital, the scene is over in a few blinks and you're right back to blah blah blah. From there, you have to wade through a good chunk of dialogue before reaching a less talk-heavy scene that actually advances the plot.
If you're a fan of the first two movies, I still think you should check out Mockingjay - Part 1. However, I would recommend waiting for a rental. It's a fine film, and necessary to the overall plot, but not the most exciting or enthralling entry in the Hunger Games series. If anything, watch it just so you can get to Part 2 next year, since the second half of the novel was pretty killer.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.