“Counter-moves” – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1 – Review

Director Francis Lawrence/ Producers Nina Jacobson and Jon Kilik

Writers Danny Strong, Peter Craig, adaptation by Suzanne Collins (based on her novel)

Studio Lionsgate

Run Time 2 Hours, 3 Minutes

Tagline Fire Burns Brighter in the Darkness

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Donald Sutherland, Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Jeffrey Wright, Natalie Dormer, Mahershala Ali, Willow ShieldsStanley Tucci

Plot After surviving the games in an unwitting part of the rebellion, Katniss along with Gale , Plutarch Heavensbee and other survivors of the Games and the ravaged District 12 take part in a propaganda war against President Snow and The Capitol.

Review Film trilogies aren’t that sacred, but there are no movie series I know of (Harry Potter being the exception) that require 4 installments to get their story out. It should not require more than three movies to tell your story, if it does you’re in the wrong medium.

Adapting Suzanne Collins third book, “Mockingjay” the weakest of the trilogy into two separate movies was a cash grab from the beginning. It’s hard to be optimistic going into Mockingjay: Part 1, but I always thought the series at least for the better part are well suited for adaptation. Overall they make for better films than they do books, as that stands though, I can only recommend this film to the hardcore fans of the series.

There are a few things to like about this half of a film. It’s a refreshing change of pace for the series to slow things down for a breath (and a crawl at times) and finally have to lean on the dialogue, acting, and plot over the hallmark action and it does serviceable. The direction is solid and the writing is half compelling, but not exceedingly clever and a bit too obvious at times. At one point a character shouts via video message, “Hurry Katniss, they’re coming!”, cue Haymitch: “That was a warning!” This places a lot of weight on the shoulders of the actors to deliver.

24 Year-Old and now very famous Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence as 17 Year-Old Katniss Everdeen, with arm candy Liam Hemsworth.

Jennifer Lawrence in the title role hits most of her targets but I feel has grown to portray Katniss a little too emotionally, especially for the character and does occasionally overact. I feel if the director for one of his most challengingly acted films should have reigned her in more. These movies have defined her career arc, and I’m starting to worry Lawrence could possibly be growing less humble.

Elsewhere, Elizabeth Banks is effervescent in my favourite performance in the film. She nails adapting Effie Trinket as her character is only minorly featured at the end of the book. My favourite scene is between her and Philip Seymour Hoffman (always a pleasure to see on-screen, and humbling to watch in his final performance). Julianne Moore does decent work underplaying District 12 president Coin, just by commanding delivery of a few small lines. I’m excited to see her work in part 2. Finally Josh Hutcherson, in a small but pivotal role, effects and makeup assisted and heavily choreographed is finally given something to do. He is the lynch-pin of the film as you wonder about him off-screen (in a way I didn’t reading the book), and the use of his eyes bring together his character’s first sound acting performance so far.

Lots of good supporting work here.

I protest the financially sound and frustratingly unsatisfying methods of this film. Most movies have a beginning, middle, and end, even films in a trilogy. With the last movie ending on a cliff-hanger this film has neither a beginning nor end. It has good performances and is crafted with care but is often too slow and does not amount to a whole movie. For that I cannot give it a full grade, and will only recommend it to hardcore fans of the series who cannot wait one full year for the conclusion. For hardcore fans of film I recommend just that; waiting…

Grade Minus

Tidbits (via IMDB):

  • Liam Hemsworth said the most awkward moments filming were the kissing scenes with Jennifer Lawrence. According to him, she would purposely eat foods with garlic or tuna fish beforehand.
  • This film introduces over 10 new characters.
  • Director Francis Lawrence made Jennifer Lawrence sing the lullaby “the hanging tree” that was also in the book, she stated that it was an awful experience.
  • Dedicated to Philip Seymour Hoffman. Who died a week before the end of filming from a drug overdose.
  • First film in the series to be shot digitally. The first not to be shot in IMAX.
  • Due to Jennifer Lawrence having shorter hair she had to wear a wig for her role of Katniss.
  • Jodie Foster was considered for the role of Alma Coin. Julianne Moore was cast. Julianne Moore replaced Foster in Hannibal (2001).
  • Lorde is the youngest person ever to curate a soundtrack for a film distributed by a major Hollywood Film Company.
  • In the book, one of Katniss’ demands in order to be the Mockingjay is that she gets to kill President Snow, is absent from the film. Curious.

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