The Preamble – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

Writer’s note: Two weeks of computer troubleshooting and one weekend wedding retreat later and I’m back.  There should be a bunch of reviews posting in relatively rapid succession.  Here’s what I’ve been watching these past few weeks.

The saga continues.  So the next chapter in the Hunger Games trilogy (quadrilogy sounds stupid, and besides, there are only three books), we get to see Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) become the Mockingjay.  She inspires a group of rebels to stand up against oppression, all the while trying to save Peeta from the Capital.  This is one of those rare series where I have actually read the source material, so I can comment on both mediums.  The books are well-written, engaging page-turners that utilize the Goosebumps tactic of making every single chapter end on a cliffhanger to keep you binge-reading.  It works, translates well into film, and yields an original product.

Battle RoyaleAlthough 2000’s Battle Royale may beg to differ.

Between the untimely death of Philip Seymour Hoffman and the leaked lewd photos of Jennifer Lawrence, peripherally, there’s a lot going on surrounding this movie.  In this chapter, we are introduced to rebel President Coin, played by the perfectly cast Julianne Moore.  Everybody reprising their respective role flourishes and brings additional depth to already well-rounded characters.  However, speaking for both the book and the movie, this is easily the weakest of the series.  In scope, it makes sense for this story to evolve in this direction; the next logical step for persecuted characters is a revolution, but as grim as it sounds, it is much more entertaining to see these characters lethally compete in the Hunger Games.  What also doesn’t help this movie is that 75% of this movie is all setup for the big finale.  There’s not a lot of action, and I don’t mean action in the genre sense, I mean action in the sense of events that move the plot forward.  This movie is a whole lot of people that are just talking, and while there is nothing inherently wrong with that, it’s a bit of a letdown, especially when you compare it with how exhilarating Catching Fire is.  And I know it should go without saying for any movie that has the words “Part 1” included in the title, but you’re only getting half a story, and here, you really feel it.

haymitchUnfortunately, there is only half the amount of Haymitch.

The thing about this two movie split is that it feels wholly and utterly unnecessary.  When Harry Potter did it back in 2010/2011, it was duly required due to the vast amount of material it had to cover; when you spend seven movies developing side characters and subplots, yeah, you’re going to need more time to spend on your resolution.  When Twilight unnecessarily followed suit and split its final movie up, it started the trend of every successful series dividing up their final chapter into two movies so as to capitalize as much as possible.  I do think this is one of those times where they could have trimmed some fat so as to make a single, tighter 150-minute movie, and it would have been a better story for it, although at least it makes sense to cut the film in the place they decided to.

hunger gamesIf you came back for the final chapter one time, you’re going to come back to see the “final” final chapter unless you completely shit the bed with part one.

This is still well-written source material, and it’s hard not to support a series that features one of the rarely seen strong female protagonists.  There are elements that work about this, like the propaganda portion where they build Katniss up to be the face of a revolution, or the entire bit in the hospital.  Everything in this is drab and coded in gray, and while this is very watchable, it ultimately has the same problem that the book as in that it doesn’t hold up when you compare it to its predecessors.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014) ***

– Critic for Hire

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