Movie Review - The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
By Matthew Huntley
November 26, 2014
The themes and social commentary of The Hunger Games are mostly obvious, and Mockingjay – Part 1 has its fair share of convenient plot devices, as when Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), the engineering genius introduced in the last film, seems to have every resource at his disposal to design and manufacture special weapons for Katniss and Gale (Liam Hemsworth). Such instances feel as though they were yanked right out of a James Bond picture, with Beetee playing the role of Q. And while all of these elements come together well enough to satiate our need for excitement and escapism, it’s the movie’s patience, emotion and character reflection that really make it come alive.
Consider the scene when Katniss visits her former home in District 12 and sees for herself the devastation wreaked by the Capitol’s recent bombings. We might expect such a moment to be short-lived and simply function to provide her character the motivation to fight and take on the role of Mockingjay. And while it does do that, director Francis Lawrence lets it play out naturally and we really take in what Katniss is feeling. It helps that Jennifer Lawrence is such a superb actress, able to convey raw despair so effortlessly.
Another effective sequence takes place when Katniss and Gale go hunting in the woods and she ponders whether or not she should shoot a deer. Afterward, she and Gale just sit by a river and contemplate, holding each other. It’s moments like these that give the movie weight because we gain a sense of what the characters must bear.
Just as The Deathly Hallows – Part 1 did for Harry Potter, Mockingjay – Part 1 allows The Hunger Games to cross an important threshold. It was never a happy or fanciful series to begin with, but up until now, we might have approached it as just another sci-fi action-adventure saga. Now it feels deeper and more relevant. I have a feeling many fans won’t find it as traditionally “entertaining” as its predecessors, but they shouldn’t see it as the franchise losing anything, but rather gaining more profundity. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the movie gets us to think critically about moral issues such as tyranny, class systems and violence, but we now see and feel the ramifications of such things, and so our emotional investment in the story is there. Now if Mockingjay – Part 2 can go even further and actually discuss these topics intelligently so that we’re inclined to deliberate them afterward, and not just fall back on an action climax like we expect it will, that’d be really impressive.