The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is the latest film in the Hunger Games series and is the second film in the series from Francis Lawrence who also directed last year’s Catching Fire. Mockingjay sees Jennifer Lawrence return as Katniss for the third time to the series and also includes other cast members such as Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright and Donald Sutherland.
As far as the plot is concerned, those who have read the third book will likely know everything they need to know as the film is based on that book. But for those who don’t read the books, basically what’s going on is that Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) goes to district 13 following the events that occurred in the last film with the ending of the Hunger Games. Katniss then starts working for President Coin (Julianne Moore) who uses her symbol as the Mockingjay to aid her in District 13’s war effort against President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Katniss and her close friends work together on a plan to rescue Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) from President Snow while at the same time, just trying to stay alive in the new district.
For the most part the plot of the film is fairly solid, it is however quite a slow film for the whole first act and only really picks up towards the final parts. Yet I didn’t really mind it as it gives more time for characters to appear on screen much more than they could have if this was not split into 2 parts. Being one of the last films for Phillip Seymour Hoffman due to his passing recently, his character of Plutarch was able to appear quite frequently throughout Mockingjay. Although I felt I would have liked to have seen a little bit more of Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) as he didn’t really have many scenes in this film.
In terms of the acting in Mockingjay, it’s all about the same as it was in Catching Fire, all good. I suppose having the same director and much of the same cast helps to recreate what they had in the second film. Jennifer Lawrence does very well with her role as Katniss Everdeen and the song she sings about the hanging tree during the film is both daunting and moving at the same time. I also enjoyed the performance from Josh Hutcherson who plays Peeta who I felt stood out quite well in his scenes this time around. So too did Donald Sutherland with his President Snow and Julianne Moore added a softer touch to her President Coin portrayal which countered well against President Snow’s menacing personality.
In looking at the directing of this film, it’s pretty much as good as the last, although I do believe I enjoyed the last film much more than I did this one. Mainly because of the pacing, this film as I mentioned is slow and I think it’s because they are stretching the third book out into two films. So you don’t get as much content in this one and that kind of holds the experience with it back in a way because they are stretching it out. Those who have read the book would know it’s a bit slow to get going as well, so it’s not really a point to complain about, it’s just how the story seems to play out. But it does pick up towards the end so it is still something enjoyable to watch.
There are not that many action scenes in Mockingjay and while the Hunger Games films aren’t really what I would describe as action films, the previous films felt like that had much more. Although I am aware that it’s because the last two contained a Hunger Games in there and the third book (which I have read) is more politically focused. That’s not to say the action scenes aren’t there, there are a few and depending on how you handle things like seeing people get killed, or gunned down, will likely determine if you like them or not. For me they weren’t much but for others, especially those who are much younger, they could find them to be a bit strong.
In terms of the political coverage and the use of Katniss or even Peeta as symbolic characters that were created for each President’s cause, it’s all well done. The film has quite a strong use of symbolic messages and metaphors, most obvious but some are more subtle and I like that. As a person who likes politics and likes and likes watching things like this I was pleased with all these scenes and I liked President Coin and her interactions with Katniss and Plutarch. I liked watching President Snow come up and make his speeches and I enjoyed Finnick’s (Sam Claflin’s) monologue. All these elements of the film were good to see and I liked that they were there and the performances from all of the actors help to add a lot more impact to them.
Special effects were good but not great. I didn’t like the way the ships flew in the air and in the cinema it didn’t seem to me anywhere near the best of the special effects I’ve seen this year. The scene where Katniss visits her old district is good though. It’s very chilling to watch Katniss walk around her old home town and see all the destruction that now exists there. It’s probably one of the better looking scenes in the film.
Overall it’s a fairly good film and really the only complaint I have is that it feels like it’s stretched out so they can get a second part of the book. But it does pick up towards the end and if you’re a fan I’m sure you’ll see it anyway but I felt it was good entertainment so I’m happy to recommend seeing it. You get a lot of good performances, you get a fairly decent story and you get to hear Jennifer Lawrence sing so I don’t know what else people could want.
I thought for a long while about the score for this film and was close to giving it a 7.5 because of the pacing and the slow start, but because of how it ended and the way it picked up, it really made me want to see the second part which I now can’t wait for, so I’m going to bump it up to an 8 (but for non fans, it might be closer to 7.5). It’s good entertainment and I enjoyed watching The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. I can’t wait to watch The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 when it comes out next year.