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REVIEW: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Written by Jason Wong

Hollywood has picked up a nasty trend of splitting final parts of movie franchises to artificially prolong their lifespans and thus milk more money out of us without having to come up with anything new or original. It may have started with the last Harry Potter installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and 2 which indeed each took in approximately the same box office take as each undivided individual movie, but doubling the film duration when Deathly Hallows wasn’t even the longest book of the series caused some unnecessarily prolonged, yawn-inducing scenes leaving me feeling cheated for the price I paid for one whole movie. Fortunately, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 left me feeling not very cheated, but of course, not totally satisfied either since it is only the first half of the final story.

Beware the following may contain spoilers, almost certainly of The Hunger Games and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the books they’re based upon.

The third movie of the Hunger Games Trilogy (+1) begins with Katniss recovering from her second Hunger Games deep in the underground safety of the Capitol-defying District 13. The resistance focuses on making Katniss the symbol and spokesperson for a united District rebellion, but she is too preoccupied with the fate of her possible true love, Peeta, who was left behind and in the hands of The Capitol at the end of Catching Fire. After some coaxing and negotiating, Katniss agrees to begin her propaganda campaign when President Snow begins his own starring none other than Peeta. Mockingjay – Part 1 is mostly this war for hearts and minds while exploring what the other Districts aside from 12 actually look like.  A propaganda war doesn’t sound very action-packed, but if you examine the framework of the earlier movies, it follows that the first half is a media-based contest before it turns into a physical battle.  Unfortunately for a split movie like Mockingjay, that means Part 1 will only cover the media war saving that savory physical battle for Part 2.

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Anytime you watch something labeled “Part 1,” you must expect a frustrating and obvious lack of resolution and a wonder of whether you’ve wasted your time because you’ve clearly not gotten to the meat of the story yet.  Whereas The Hobbit, Harry Potter, and presumably Twilight (which I will not watch) all integrated annoying stall tactics into their book-splitting screenplays, The Hunger Games has managed to mostly disguise theirs due to the gifted performances of Jennifer Lawrence and.. well, mostly Jennifer Lawrence. The supporting cast do a very decent job themselves and therefore do not call attention to the stall tactics, but watching a closeup of Lawrence emotionally react to things can hang there for days and you might not notice since there’s so much happening just on her face. That’s not to say some scenes didn’t linger a smidgin too long here and there, but those occasional scenes were still far more forgivable than Bilbo Baggins wasting my life away by answering the door for each and every dwarf who came knocking.

Despite lacking scenes from the heavily digitized Capitol, the movie is enchanting to look at showing no obvious division of special effects and actors, and there were quite a few nifty technological inventions digitally thrown in there. You get to see other Districts and feel the open world whereas previous instalments locked you in the one world you came from, the world The Capitol allowed you to taste, and the battle dome of death The Capitol trap you into. The only voiced music tracks from the film come from Lorde and Lawrence herself, both haunting themes you’ll remember after leaving. The only post-credit stinger is the Mockingjay logo morphing into its different movie-marketing shapes which is not worth staying for.

The Hunger Games are now a long way away from being a clone of the 2000 Japanese cult favorite Battle Royale, but the bottom line is, if you’ve followed the first two movies, you will watch Mockingjay – Part 1 regardless of anyone’s opinion, and you’ll enjoy it with the only complaint being it’s only half the story before it ends. Judging as a film by itself, the plot is much too thin, but the images, the technological imagination, and mostly that one person’s compelling acting still make this a movie worth watching.

Overall Grade: B

What did you like or dislike from this sequel?  Should they have split it into two parts or left it as one?  Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!

About the author

Jason Wong