BreakingModern – Katniss Everdeen has gone through a lot – two Hunger Games that have nearly killed her, watching people she cared for die, PTSD and losing Peeta to evil forces. Now, she must face her toughest challenge in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, a sequel that is entertaining at times, yet padded with extraneous dialogue and a drawn-out storyline that sets up a finale a year from now.
Mockingjay Part 1 is half of a story. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have enough storyline, action or character development to stand on its own as a good film. There are some interesting moments, but it lacks the pace, thrills and the tight storyline the previous two movies had. For those 40+ million who have read the Hunger Games books, this may not be a problem. But for those who have not, this film is like a friend telling you a great story, then cutting it off midway and promising to finish it a year later.
The Rise of the Penultimate Franchise Film
Like it or not, the “Penultimate Franchise Film” (coined by the NY Times) is here to stay. It started with Harry Potter’s finale, continued with the Twilight Series, hit a very low point with the badly drawn-out Hobbit films and continues with Mockingjay Part 1. This only continues, as Lionsgate (the studio that split apart Twilight and Hunger Games) will split Allegiant, the final book in the Divergent trilogy, into two films.
The split finale worked with the Twilight and Harry Potter film finale since they were based on 750+ page books with enough material to make decent movies. Yet The Hunger Games Mockingjay book is 391 pages – a page count similar to the other books – and is written in a way that lends itself to one film.
The Story (Spoilers for Those Who Haven’t Read)
The film begins where the last film, Hunger Games: Catching Fire, left off. Katniss is in shock over being saved from the Quarter Quell and is now with a group of rebels hidden underground in the 13th District. The rebels want her to be the figurehead for the rebellion as the Mockingjay, but Katniss simply wants Peeta back. After visiting her leveled district, she agrees to become the Mockingjay, but only if the rebellion rescues Peeta.
Katniss once again becomes the reluctant hero who doesn’t necessarily hold lofty ambitions of defying a brutal, totalitarian government. She doesn’t want revenge after her district was destroyed. Katniss simply wants Peeta back. It seems love is blind even in the midst of a rebellion.
The rebellion decides the revolution must be televised and so they take Katniss to the districts that have been demolished by the Capitol’s military and film her. Here we see Jennifer Lawrence unleash her brilliant emotional acting skills that have made Katniss such a compelling character on screen. These are only deep emotional moments of the film.
The film alternates between drab studio sets of underground bunkers with flaccid speeches by the rebellion’s president (Julianne Moore), posthumous appearances by Phillip Seymour Hoffman and scenes of demolished districts. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) performs excellently and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is bland as white bread as the Capitol’s mouthpiece who implores Katniss to stop her antics. Gale (Liam Hemsworth) is just as boring as her childhood best friend and second-best choice for Katniss. It seems fitting here that we have a female heroine who is an excellent actor and two dimwit guys when so many Hollywood films have had the reverse.
There are some entertaining scenes, such as a covert mission inside the Capitol and a quick battle scene in one of the districts, but this film is clearly a setup for the next one. Cynically, it could simply be a tactic to make more money out of what has been a great film franchise and series of novels.
I suggest waiting until next year when Mockingjay Part 1 is released on DVD and Blu-Ray, watching it at home, and then attending Mockingjay Part 2 in the theaters. This might make for a highly entertaining finale and may send the message to studios that split franchise finales often compromise the quality of a film.