The 400-Word-Review: Mockingjay Part 1
By Sean Collier
November 24, 2014
Following in the billion-dollar footsteps of the Twilight and Harry Potter franchises, Lionsgate opted to split the ultimate chapter in the Hunger Games book trilogy into two films. This was a more questionable decision here than in those other examples; all three of the books relied on a simple structure, half setup and half showdown.
So how to make a two-hour Mockingjay Part 1 that’s more than characters discussing what will happen in Part 2? I feared the answer would involve a plethora of unnecessary action sequences. Such has been the case with the Hobbit series, a two-hour film masquerading as an eight-hour film thanks largely to computer-generated sword fights. Could Mockingjay buck the trend and find a useful reason to divide?
Surprisingly, yes. What’s more, screenwriters Peter Craig and Danny Strong decided to spend their extra time not on archery and chaos, but rather on quieter moments that flesh out Katniss in ways the book never did.
Maybe these movies really are revolutionary.
At the end of the 75th annual Hunger Games, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) shattered the electronic dome of the arena, allowing a phalanx of airships to swoop in and airlift her to the mysterious District 13. There, a paramilitary compound was planning for a revolution, led by rebel president Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Games head honcho turned freedom fighter Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman). They want Katniss to be the face of the revolution, overpowering evil with propaganda — but she’ll only agree if the rebels rescue her compatriot Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), who wasn’t picked up when the Games broke down.
So it’s a big action tentpole about propaganda, negotiations and the pulse of rebellion. It’s also the best Hunger Games film yet — a rich, emotional struggle that finally shows us enough of Katniss to appreciate what a distinct heroine she is. The whole franchise rests on Lawrence’s shoulders, and here, she proves that her casting was a brilliant move.
If someone were foolish enough to watch Mockingjay Part 1 but none of its predecessors, they wouldn’t know what to make of it; this is definitely a chapter and not a whole work. But I bet that uninformed viewer would also be impressed by the great acting, powerful storytelling and deep pools of emotion Mockingjay offers. The Hunger Games rises above the trappings of fantasy franchises; believe it or not, these are important, almost vital, movies.
My Rating: 9/10