Film Review: The Hunger Games – Mockingjay (Part 1)

Rating:

The first part of the final novel in Suzanne Collins’ young adult trilogy of novels, The Hunger Games, Mockingjay (Part 1), directed by Francis Lawrence, follows on from the cliff-hanger of last year’s Catching Fire, with the echoing words that District 12 has been destroyed. Transferred to District 13 in her fragile state, and now under the charge of President Coin (Julianna Moore), Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) must now become the iconic Mockingjay, a symbol of hope and courage in the revolution, to unify the districts of Panem, rescue Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), fight to save those she loves, and attempt to shatter the games forever.

The following post is a review of the film only. You can read my review of the book on its own here or my comparison of the film to the book here.

Moving on from the huge twist that Catching Fire left us with, the story itself didn’t really have anywhere else to go, but the best characteristics of a dystopia are always around the themes of standing up for yourself, fighting against wrong, and making a difference, and it’s what we’ve been waiting for Katniss to do. Unfortunately, she isn’t quite ready.

It’s the focus on Katniss’ character that takes dominance with this film, as she’s left broken, confused, and with a complete lack of trust in everybody around her. For the most part of this first instalment, this is shown excellently. We easily see Katniss’ inner struggle as we urge her to become the heroine she was born to be. It’s this focus on her character that reminds us of what we love about the franchise as a whole and led by the beautiful Jennifer Lawrence, it’s hard not to be captivated by her emotional performance.

Whilst this film works primarily as a teaser for the story’s big finale, a lot happens in this first instalment to get us excited for something big, as Katniss proves that she’s up for the job and that the other districts really do need her support. This opens up some great action scenes and once again highlights the bleak setting of this dystopia. What I love most about The Hunger Games trilogy is that it doesn’t shy away from showing death and desperation. More than once we see the ashes of hundreds of bodies lying on the ground of District 12, reminding us of what happened in the previous films. But it’s all building up to something much bigger and better, and with the final novel being split into two, we don’t get to see the revolution that we’re all dying to see.

All of the brilliant original cast reprise their roles, including Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, Liam Hemsworth as Gale, Sam Claflin as Finnick, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, Donald Sutherland as President Snow, Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman, Willow Shields as Primrose Everdeen, and Paula Malcomson as Mrs Everdeen, but the return of one character outshines all, and that’s the legendary Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee. It’s brilliant to see that he managed to film all of his scenes for this first instalment, and I hope we get to see a lot more of him in the second film.

There’s also a couple of big additions to the cast, firstly with the beautiful Julianne Moore who plays President Coin, a fantastic actress who has the boldness and strength in character that Coin needs, and secondly with Game of ThronesNatalie Dormer as Cressida.

Everything in this first instalment sets up Mockingjay (Part 2) as an epic finale, but that’s also what undermines this first film. It’s a great addition to The Hunger Games film adaptations, but it doesn’t have the entertainment factor that the previous two films have, nor the conclusion that we are becoming impatient to see.

Able to read straight ahead to the second part of the story, the book is much more intense and impacting. To properly review this film, Part 2 needs to be taken into consideration, and our wait for the next instalment might burden our opinions somewhat. Nevertheless, I can’t wait for what’s to come.

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