“[The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1] results in nothing more than a blatant cash-grab for a franchise Lionsgate clearly doesn’t want to only be worth three films.”

by Steve Pulaski

I’ve made my lukewarm opinions about The Hunger Games film franchise rather apparent in my reviews of the last two films. While being enjoyable for a short period of time for their action sequences during the actual games and the appeal of Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen, the previous two films have always found a way to include some sort of feature that prevents me from giving them positives reviews. The first film was burdened by mediocre direction, which felt almost constantly off balance or unsteady in its videography, and the second film found itself including too many hokey sequences before descending into tiresome survivalist action.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is the first of the two-part finale to this series, and can effectively be summed up as a two hour trailer for the second. Being a film conducted in two parts, the first is inevitably setup for the second part, which will undoubtedly be the climactic of the two films. With Mockingjay being only ten pages shy of four-hundred, splitting the film into two over two hours in length is a questionable decision. Taking a book that is already questionably long enough to sustain two parts and making the first a dreary plod through exposition and talky setups, is enough to make me lose the limited amount of appreciation I had for this franchise.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
Directed by
Francis Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Release Date
22 November 2014
Steve’s Grade: D+

The film sees Lawrence reprise her role as Katniss, and reminds us of how Katniss destroyed the annual Hunger Games and essentially left her home of District 12 in ruins. After being relocated to District 13, Katniss, suffering from severe flashbacks and trauma, is recruited by President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), a rebel leader, who wants to use Katniss as propaganda for a potential civilian unrest. On top of this newfound gig, Katniss is also trying to rescue Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) from the capital, who have taken him prisoner. Katniss blames old District 12 victor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) for Peeta’s capture, who promised to save him before her. The film follows Katniss’s many battles with what seems to be some type of post-traumatic nightmares, her fragile emotional state, and her gig as a propaganda figure for the potential capital uprising.

For starters, any outcries of praise for Katniss being a dominate and strong-willed female character should dwindled to faint muffles after the complete character reversal we see occur in this film. Katniss, who has always been something of a cliche of herself or, at very least, an archetype, has now resorted to being a character who whines and cries powerlessly with every event. Never do we see the same determined and incorruptible force of a character we saw in the previous films, who is innovative and selfless. But instead one who is far less interesting and cursed with a weepy and fragile ego.

On top of that, we get dreadfully boring exposition in the way that talks about the rise in propaganda in Panem. What could’ve been rich with commentary unfortunately finds itself remaining stagnant in terms of simply existing and providing little payoff. Scenes involve Katniss, Coin, and a gaggle of other characters talking about potential civil unrest in the districts before we see Katniss having another traumatic nightmare inside a hospital, desperately crying out for Peeta. The film keeps circling itself in this manner, and it doesn’t help that Lawrence, who, as I’ve said before, is a gifted actor when she’s playing human characters in realistic environments, handles the emotional scenes with an evident element of overacting that neither intensifies or captivates but instead finds ways to offput.

The contents and existence of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 will be justified by the devoted fans of Suzanne Collins’ book series as necessary for a complete adaptation, to which I do not disagree; we need elements of setup and narrative articulation not only for clarity but so the climactic parts can succeed on greater, more emotional levels. The issue is we don’t need two hours and a separate film for the events, and what perhaps could’ve worked out at least adequately results in nothing more than a blatant cash-grab for a franchise Lionsgate clearly doesn’t want to only be worth three films.