Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
After being rescued from the destroyed arena in the 75th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) is taken to District 13, a military district which was thought of as destroyed. There she meets the leader of District 13, president Coin (Julianne Moore) who is planning an attack on the capital and President Snow (Donald Sutherland), but in order to win the war they must first win the media battle and so intend to use Katniss as their ‘mockingjay’; a propaganda symbol of the rebellion. On discovering that the capital have Peeta (Hutcherson) and are using him as a propaganda tool of their own to stop the war, on the condition that they try to save Peeta, Katniss reluctantly agrees.
So, the franchise that has to take a lot of responsibility for the sudden influx of cinematic adaptations of young adult novels set in future dystopias featuring young adult protagonists is bask for its penultimate cinematic chapter. Well as someone who liked, but certainly did not love either of its first two instalments (I cannot comment on the books, but the films were watchable if quite average, contrived and uninspiring) this was never a film I particularly looked forward to but felt I should certainly see it through.
Well, I know many will disagree, but Mockingjay Part 1 is just as perfectly watchable but uninspiring and forgettable as its predecessors. As the first film that does not actually have a narrative that takes place in the actual event and arena of The Hunger Games the makers were always perhaps facing a battle for a chapter (especially now with book three being split into two parts) that is dialogue heavy and has very few set pieces. I personally do not have a problem with that and one of my problems with the first two films was the horrendously contrived narrative developments that happened once our protagonists were in the arena.
If anything, I would argue that Mockingjay Part 1 has a better story with more substance than its predecessors at its core; the examination of how propaganda is just a dangerous weapon in war as anything else physical is interesting and depicted with intelligence and that element of the narrative is intriguing and provides a genuinely tense atmosphere. Likewise we have some legitimately interesting characters played by the likes of Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland and Elizabeth Banks.
However this is all let down by the uninspiring main characters and frequent exposition dialogue that is incredibly patronising and jarring. I hate the phrase ‘target audience’, though I obviously get why it is used, I find it is often used in a derogatory regard for that supposed ‘target audience’. I may not be part of the supposed ‘target audience’, but I can appreciate a good story with good main characters and though the back story of Katniss Everdeen should be good, I find her uninspiring and uninteresting. This is mainly because the films are not particularly well written and the constant and irritatingly repetitive focus on a really uninteresting love triangle makes for infuriating viewing. This is not helped by an extremely poorly written and patronising script in which one character has to frequently explain to another character what another character means when they say or do something. Sometimes it is glaringly obvious and it does often feel like the writers are treating the audience like idiots!
All Katniss, Peeta and Gale do is either mope or pout, even Sam Claflin’s Finnick now seems to have the moping bug, his character in Catching Fire was a little edgy, intriguing and very well played. Though Sam Claflin does his best, his character is also irritating in Mockingjay Part 1. Though the narrative contains some interesting manipulation by other characters of this love triangle, and in that sense I appreciate its narrative importance, but the fact the story seems to focus so heavily on it makes for rather dull viewing at times. The acting is also extremely bland from all three which does not help, there is no question that Jennifer Lawrence was exceptional in Winter’s Bone, but with every film I see her in I increasingly think that was a one off.
There are also moments that the writers feel they have to make up for this chapter being dialogue heavy by throwing in moments of ‘tension’ that feel extremely forced such as a moment involving Katniss’ sister (Willow Shields) and a cat. If they are indeed in the book, then the writers of the film have just not done a very good job.
Though I am not exactly eagerly counting down the days till the release of Mockingjay Part 2 next year, Mockingjay Part 1 still has enough to make for an intriguing setup to what has the potential to be a thrilling conclusion, though I will never care about who is in love with who.
A film with interesting ideas at its core, but yet as ultimately uninspiring as its predecessors down to some poor writing; Mockingjay Part 1 is at its best when the three uninspiring main characters are not moping about, but unfortunately that is not much of the film.