So much goes into starting a revolution. First you need a common enemy. Check. Then you need an epic chant. Check. You’ll also need to find a powerful person who symbolizes your cause. Check. Now you’ll need to make plans to take down your enemy, and execute that plan. Check? The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 plays out like a candidate on the campaign trail. There is a lot of planning and campaigning and propaganda, and even some action in the form of mud-slinging and stone-throwing. This film is all about moves and counter-moves leading up to the next film, where we’ll find out who comes out victorious. Vote Katniss Everdeen for your Mockingjay?
We rejoin our heroine Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) having been rescued by a rebel alliance she was unaware of under her Mockingjay symbol. She is still living with the guilt of leaving Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) behind, but finds out he is still alive and working for the Capitol/President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Currently, she is hiding out in the underground complex created by the thought-to-be-extinct District 13. In all the other districts, there are riots and rebellions, but Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) asks Katniss to be their champion for the revolution.
After some convincing from her family, Gale (Liam Hemsworth), and even Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), she reluctantly agrees. There’s also the help of the ever eccentric Effie (Elizabeth Banks), as well as some militaristic support from the president of District 13, Alma Coin (Julianne Moore). With a guerrilla camera crew, headed by Cressida (Natalie Dormer), they go out and film propaganda messages. They visit sites of destruction, like the genocide of District 12. Meanwhile, at the Capitol, they are airing interviews between Caesar (Stanley Tucci) and Peeta in hopes of quelling the rebellions, but that proves to be in vain because it’s already catching fire.
This is the first Hunger Games film without an actual Hunger Games taking place. Previously in the films, all the tension and build-up was made to be released when the annual Hunger Games took place. We don’t get that release this time around, spending most of the time scheming and setting up the explosive finale that we have to wait an entire year for. Director Francis Lawrence does his best in this over-extended film based on one book. To make up for the lack of action in this penultimate film, they compensate with some semi-intellectual political machinations to keep us sated. It may come off as dull to some of the younger viewers this film is intended for, but I enjoyed going on the campaign trail with Katniss to a point. We only get glimpses of action, only lasting long enough for the cameras to capture Katniss for their propaganda videos, and that is not enough, especially considering that up to that point, we were used to having the films end in a violent battle royale.
The one consistent thing (that has actually improved the more films we go into) would have to be the caliber of the talent. We’re all waiting for the day when Jennifer Lawrence is finally done with this franchise, but until we get there we can enjoy her performance. I’m not sure any other actress could have delivered the same intensity to the role of Katniss as Lawrence has. At a close second is her excellent supporting cast, who always come close to outshining her flame. This time around, it would have to be the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, whose performance is a nice reminder of why we fell in love with him in the first place. Also, Elizabeth Banks as Effie is always a treat, and this time around Banks proves to us that she can still carry the spark of her character Effie, even when being stripped of all the gowns and glamour.
Ultimately, this penultimate film is just filler, or a warm-up for the main event. While The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 feels bloated (as they padded the film because it was made into a two-parter), it does give us some smart snacks and refreshing performances to curb our hunger, but without much action or excitement, it really just comes off as a light morsel before the main course. Hopefully it’s enough to last you a year until the next and final one.
RATING: ★★★★★★(6/10 stars)
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