The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

mockingjay katniss

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.

mockingjay dormer

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.

mockingjay phs posterOne 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 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).

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18 responses

  1. The Knitting Cinephile | Reply

    The good Hubster, the Vulcan engineer that he is, is annoyed at the teasers shown on TV for this movie … they show Katniss firing an arrow at a flying ship of some sort, and it blows up. His comment, “when you get into a war like this, you need to give up the bows and arrows.”

    1. Haha. Probably a valid point. Though it is a fancy explosive arrow if that makes it any better?

  2. I like the idea of it being about the propaganda war. Makes me think of Enemy At The Gates. Looking forward to this

    1. Cheers Mikey. Will be interested to see what you think of it. Don’t think I’ve ever seen Enemy at the Gates.

  3. Awesome Tim! I’m so pumped to see this tonight!!!! I have been avoiding readingearly reviews and watching any previews/teasers etc before this one because I really would like to have a mostly-uncorrupted first viewing experience. after being mildly disappointed with Interstellar, I’m trying to take some new approaches lol. That said, I too noticed that this particular installment has been more quietly marketed than the ones that came before it. This will still be a huge event, I’m sure, but I totally agree that this seems to be one that’s going to be largely misunderstood as an unnecessary two-part film.

    1. Cheers Tom. I still haven’t seen Interstellar or Gone Girl, but feel they’ve been ruined a little for me by Twitter. So I rushed out and saw this one the second my back was up to it. Will be interested to see what you think. Seems to be plenty of people who did not dig it as much as me.

      1. Ah yes, good old Twitter. Prob another reason I am glad to be off that site. 🙂

      2. Oh I love twitter a good 90% of the time. Spoilers and people being waaay too smug are the only downsides to that site. The smugness and pretension among some people about films really does get me down on there occasionally. But I have a lot of fun on there too.

  4. just finished reading this book last week. Am interested in seeing what they did, but I too will be disappointed by the feeling of “half a movie”.

    Great review Tim

    1. Thanks Rob. For whatever reason, I just was not that bothered by it. Not sure if it was cause I was expecting it or I just enjoyed what came before it so much.

      1. Guess ill find out when I see it. ;). I was bothered by the way the movie catching fire ended so abruptly and that was before I read the book. This time it’s the opposite, so who knows

  5. Great review! This one opened today over here but I think I’ll have to wait until the weekend to see it. Glad to read it’s a good one, especially since I thought the book was sooo boring!

    1. Cheers Fernando. I’ve heard the same thing from a few people re that book. I listened to the first two, but never got around to this one. Will be keen to hear your thoughts on it once you’ve seen it. Let me know here if you don’t write about it.

  6. Shocked to see a more positive review of this! I’m actually one of those people who have a problem with this being half a movie just because it seems like nothing more than a money grab. I have zero excitement to see it or pay for it, but unfortunately, It is both my turn to pay and my girlfriend’s choice next time we go to the theaters.

    Here’s to hoping I have a good time like you did!

    1. Did you see it man? I have no doubt that splitting it into two is definitely a money grab. But for me at least, that turned into a good film in this case.

  7. Wow. Good to see a very positive take on it. I really liked the second film (to my surprise) and it got me excited about this one. It’s been interesting to see all of the takes on it.

    1. Cheers Keith. Yep, I really liked this one. Was a big fan of the second too, though I really liked the direction they took this one in.

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