Lit-to-Flick: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014) Movie Review

Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth in action as Katniss Everdeen and Gale Hawthorne

Yes, I am one of those people who HAS to go watch the movie on the day it comes out in theatres. So of course, I wasted no time in rushing to book tickets for the latest instalment of The Hunger Games.

Let’s recap slightly, in the last movie Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) was sent back in the arena to fight a battle to the death. However, this time her opponents weren’t innocent children, but calculated, skilled killers, victors from the previous games. Unknown to Katniss and her fellow tribute, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) , a select number of victors were plotting to get her out of the arena in order to use her as a symbol of the revolution. This in turn would unite the Districts as one against the Capitol. Whilst Katniss was saved , Peeta was taken hostage by President Snow (Donald Sutherland). In this instalment, Katniss becomes the Mockingjay, while attempting to understand how and why Snow is using Peeta. Meanwhile, the unrest that had been brewing in the other Districts has turned to all out war.

As always, I’m going to sing the praises of such a stellar cast. Lawrence as Katniss continues to shine in the lead role  and manages to perfectly balance vulnerability and tenacity needed. Hutcherson has always been typecast as the “good guy”, yet he managed to step out of his comfort zone and show off his versatility as he portrayed Peeta as a tragically broken and erratic character. The late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who this movie is dedicated to also reminds us of what a great talent the film industry has lost.  But it’s the addition of Julianne Moore as Alma Coin, President of  District 13, that truly made me appreciate her talent as she added depth and gravity to a character that was merely a sketch on a page.

It’s a relief knowing Francis Lawrence has returned to direct this movie and the next as special effects and cinematography were consistent throughout. Lawrence also makes the audience much more aware of Panem and the districts of a whole this time; In previous movies,  we only got glimpses into other districts from Katniss’ perspective, yet this time there appears to be more of the geography of the nation as a whole, to demonstrate the extent of the war and the tragic consequences it holds.

Ultimately, this IS a war movie, and clearly demonstrates how people suffer in war, how they fight in it and how they survive it. One of the most attractive elements of The Hunger Games’ series is it’s political undertones and at times, this dystopian YA movie cleverly comments on the effects the media plays in our everyday lives. In the movie, both the rebels and the Capitol use media coverage and propaganda videos (or propo’s) to influence the outcome of the war. In one particularly poignant scene Katniss is filmed singing a song called “The Hanging Tree” which begins as her singing alone and builds up as people from the districts begin to sing along. Soon her voice becomes lost within the voices of the rebels.  This incredibly effective scene ties together two key themes; rebellion within the society, and what, ironically, unifies those that rebel .

Having said all that, where this movie does fail is in the pacing. Whilst the first two instalments were filled to the brim with adrenaline pumping moments, this seemed to be lacking in this movie.  Considering this is a war movie, you would’ve thought there would be more action. However, when there is action it is packed with both energy and raw emotion that make them particularly effective and convey the damages of war such as loss of life. There are also many scenes that have been added that go beyond Katniss’ perspective. Some of which work and some of which don’t and disrupt the flow of the actual plot.

Harry Potter, The Twilight Series and The Hobbit have all undergone the split in two movies treatment (or three in The Hobbit’s case). In each of these instances, I never truly believed that the split was a decision made for creative reasons and was just merely a scheme for Hollywood executives to pocket more money. However, this is one instance where I DO believe the decision was made to allow more time and development of the plot of the movie and perhaps this will be evident in the second part. However, this has affected the story of the first part because that’s exactly what it feels like; a PART. It does not feel like it is a whole film; as a result it lacks plot and character development.

All in all, I can’t quiet say that this movie was entirely satisfying or fulfilling. But that perhaps is the intention; To keep us thirsty until the final instalment next year…

The Bug’s Verdict: 8/10

Based on: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Screenplay by: Danny Strong and Peter Craig

Directed by: Francis Lawrence

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Stanley Tucci, Sam Claflin, Donald Sutherland and more!

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