Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” is a well acted movie with splendid special effects but suffers from the same problem that haunted other two part conclusions.

Namely, you’ll walk out of the theater not attached to this film but ready for everything to explode in the finale.  “Mockingjay” is heavy on dialogue, which given the cast isn’t a bad thing, but does feel repetitive at the halfway point.

This is the part where I mention, in the interest of full disclosure, that I haven’t read the Hunger Games books.  So I really had no idea what to expect.  Womp womp.


Quick summary of the plot:  In the wake of the second film, popular Hunger Games champion Katniss Everdeen (the bodacious Jennifer Lawrence) is exploring the hidden District 13 compound and must decide if she wants to become the face of a rebellion against the rich Capitol (wouldn’t it have been ironic if they spelled it “Capital” instead? Huh? Huh?).  Complicating matters is that the man she loves, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), is trapped in the Capitol.

If you’ve watched the trailer to “Mockingjay” you’ve seen the only real action set in the movie.  However, it mostly makes up for it with a tense raiding scene at the end (partially told via cameras on the troops, very “Aliens,” very cool).

To its credit, “Mockingjay” does go out of its way to show the horrors or air wars, more so than you’d expect from a PG-13 movie.  The scene where Katniss visits her decimated home is one of the two most memorable moments in the picture (the other one being the second to last scene in the movie).

SIDE NOTE:  On the topic of air warfare, if you haven’t checked out this article on the lost photos of the Gulf War, please do.  Very telling account of military and media relations during wartime.

But after a well-paced start the film drags on in the middle.  It becomes a contest to see which side can produce the best propaganda videos (called “propos”) to win over public opinion.

Call me a Hunger Games novice, but is the run up to a big battle really exchanging TV commercials?  As someone who studied politics I find that whole airwave approach … a little too civil for a rebellion picture.

It would have helped to show other districts reacting to the TV battle as it progressed.  In the beginning, we see people view the address from President Snow (Donald Sutherland, badass villain with a white rosy attitude) but after that just see how the two rival governments respond.

The same thing plagued “Thor.”  Fine movie, but characters keep saying they’re “on the brink of war” and we need to ensure people know someone is in charge.  But we never see the civilian population ready themselves for bloodshed or worried about their monarchy, just palace intrigue.

Nevertheless, “Mockingjay” is worth your time even if you haven’t read the books.  This one comes recommended.

Finally, classy move to dedicate the film to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman (Plutarch Heavensbee).  Tip of the hat to director Francis Lawrence for not using CGI or other tricks to finish some of Hoffman’s incomplete scenes but letting his performance stand on its own.

BOTTOM LINE:  It’s the calm before the storm that could’ve used more lightning.