Depending on where in the world you live, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014) has either opened or is just about to. It feels like the film has crept up a little, with less hype than one would expect. Not sure if this is just my imagination or if they are perhaps holding a little something back for the closing bonanza that will be with us next year.
The first two films in the series were for all intents and purposes high concept action films. Both of them were good, though the second one was a marked improvement. The usual course of action for the next film in an uber-successful series with a ready made audience would be of course to turn in more of the same, just a little bigger with a few more bells and whistles. Quite incredibly and refreshingly though, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 eschews the action film structures and brings us a war film. Not only that, it’s a really good and very smart war film. It is a bold move on the part of the studio and the filmmakers involved as it risks alienating people who loved the first two films. Especially since even for a war film it is not a particularly action packed one. The focus here is on the propaganda war being raged in Panem. As such much of the film is deliberately paced, as Katniss and her new allies film clips to help win over the masses. There are a couple of big set pieces, one exceptionally tense toward the end, but the real focus is on the hearts and minds of the everyday people in the districts.
One major criticism that has been levelled at the film is that it is in fact only half the film. It is a little strange that people are so shocked by it given the title. But I can understand the frustration, the story is left unfinished. Having said that, the ending to this film is not actually any more abrupt in terms of the overall storyline than how The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) finished up. It is interesting that although this is a YA adaptation and most of the audience would be expected to be teens, this is a really dark film and is also more adult than probably 90% of films that will be released this year. As for the cast, Jennifer Lawrence is once again exceptional at conveying the inner turmoil and at times vagueness of Katniss. The character is written so well, being simultaneously heroic yet exceptionally torn about her place in the revolution that it needs a performance as good as hers to bring that to life. The film is touchingly dedicated to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman and he, along with Woody Harrelson and Julianne Moore lead the wonderful supporting cast. If anything they feel a little underutilised, though only because they are so enjoyable onscreen rather than any particular narrative deficiencies.
Verdict: Successfully shattering the formulas of the first two films, this is one hell of a smart war film and a truly bold direction for the series to be taken in. It’s the best of the three films in the series so far and will have me lining up at midnight next year to see the conclusion. Longneck of Melbourne Bitter
Related beermovie.net articles for you to check out: Worth Watching March 2012 (includes review of The Hunger Games) and Worth Watching December 2013 (includes review of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire).