The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Movie Review
The adaptation of the final book in The Hunger Games franchise has inevitably been split into two halves, which means that The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I is half a story, and the least interesting half. But given the inevitability of its existence, the movie is about as much as you can hope for if not more, which still may be less than what you’re hoping for.
Mockingjay Part I picks up immediately after the last one, so if you are one of the ten people in the world who didn’t see Catching Fire, you’re screwed. Katniss is a complete mess and suffering from even more severe PTSD than she was last go-around, Peeta is a captive of the Capitol and friend-zoned Gale has somehow become a badass soldier who is so good at being a soldier that the long-thought-destroyed District 13, despite being filled with people who for decades have trained toward the singular goal of destroying the Capitol, enlists him for top secret, Seal Team Six-esque missions.
For those looking for the same action beats found in the previous two movies, you may be disappointed: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I spends most of its time below ground, in bunkers, with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Julianne Moore bickering about whether or not Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) can be the propaganda... er, face... of the rebellion. Those two should really just cut the tension and have sex already.
Returning director Francis Lawrence does give the audience a reprieve from time to time by shoving Katniss into more dangerous situations, which just like in the book come sporadically and end abruptly. There isn’t much build-up to the action and it fades just as quickly, but that’s what you get when you make a movie where the climax won’t be released for another year.
At just over two hours, Mockingjay Part I isn’t tediously long, but it does drag in a few parts as it grasps for material to sustain itself. Some sequences are repetitive—like Katniss visiting her ravaged District 12, then visiting a ravaged District 8, and then returning to District 12 again (??)—and a few of the slower scenes would have been cut in a normal, not-the-first-half-of-a-two-part-action-movie-where-most-of-the-action-is-at-the-end kind of movie.
Despite all its shortcomings, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I is generally decent. Lawrence (the director, not the actress) strikes a dark, serious tone that works quite well, and blips of humor—usually at the expense of poor, mentally fried Katniss—are timed quite well. For what it is, the movie exceeded my expectations, though that may only be because the book upon which it is based is not very good at all. On that note, Peeta is handled better than he was in the book.
Jennifer Lawrence is once again solid and makes the most of the stretched material; Katniss is much less annoying than she was in the third book, and at least some of that is thanks to the young Oscar winner.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I is the first half of a full story, based on a book that was not nearly as good as the first two. If that bothers you, and it should, the movie is an exercise in overextended foreplay, a lot of dry humping that doesn’t lead to anything else. But if you just accept it for what it is—the movie, whether we like it or not, is the first half of a fuller story, and the material upon which it is based is mediocre at best—then the Mockingjay is entertaining enough, well executed enough, just fun enough, to be worth it. It may be less than you’re hoping for, or more, depending on your disposition.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.