Mockingjay Part 1 Review: The Media Games


This trend of splitting a book into two or three part movies is a double-edged sword. On one hand, there’s more room and freedom to stay faithful to the content of the source novel and it’s wonderful that we get to see more of our favorite characters in a certain franchise. But on the other hand, it also runs the risk of over-lengthening the story unnecessarily or having a movie that purely just sets up the sequel. Such was the case in The Hunger Games: The Mockingjay Part 1.

Out of all three movies in the series, Mockingjay Part 1 is easily the weakest. But I’m not saying it was a bad movie. It was still good…just not great. It had the trademark political element we’ve seen in the past Hunger Games movies, minus the action we’ve also come to expect from it. In a lot of ways, having a two-part finale really wasn’t necessary.

Mockingjay Part 1 picks up immediately after the end of Catching Fire. Katniss Everdeen, the ever defiant tribute to the annual country-wide murderfest called the Hunger Games, is rescued by a underground rebel group out to overthrow President Snow’s tyrannical rule. She is in a fragile state, made even worse by fact that Peeta is now most likely Snow’s prisoner. But that doesn’t stop the resistance from using her as their movement’s figurehead, the face to rile up and inspire Panem’s citizens into revolt.

What I loved about the previous Hunger Games movies was its ability to deliver a highly dramatic action adventure movie with a very strong political undercurrent. But in Mockingjay, the politics is front and center. No action occurred, just a few feeble attempts to over “suspense-ify” certain events. E.g. Running towards closing doors, watching a mission through TV monitors, or filming recruitment videos. This movie was so anti-climactic that Katniss literally only ever shot an arrow ONCE. (Granted she DID kill a plane with it.)

Remember that one time Katniss shot an arrow in the trailer? Well. That was it!

But being a political movie isn’t a bad thing per se. It’s just what we’ve come to love about Katniss, that she kicks ass! But in Mockingjay, she’s relegated to being a celebrity. She does what she’s told, shoots videos, visits hospitals, etc. She’s never even in any REAL danger. It’s like someone stole Katniss’ balls, and ultimately, the movie’s.

She was a pawn in President Coin (Julianne Moore) and President Snow’s political chess game. Imagine Captain America in the first half hour after he became a super soldier. And that’s essentially all Mockingjay Part 1 was: a political war - a war fought with a series of Hollywoodized (and accidentally amusing) propaganda videos, shows of power, and symbolism. Natalie Dormer, who was such a bad ass in promotional materials (you know she was gonna kick so much butt), played Cressida, the propaganda videos’ director! She’s the embodiment of how this movie blind-sides us by implying they were one thing, and then turning out to be another.

Natalie Dormer
How do you look like THAT and not be a soldier???

I can appreciate the intellectual outmaneuvering, and the power-of-media narrative they had going on, but did it really have to be two hours long? I’m not so sure it did. It felt like they were having a tough time figuring out how to fill the 2-hour movie. I imagine that if you put together all the scenes of Katniss being told she was being summoned to President Coin’s office, it would last a solid 10 minutes. Then another 15 minutes would be all the scenes of her walking through rubble.

Rubble Walking: The Movie

Not a lot happens in this movie story-wise, to tell you the truth. The only significant development to the plot only really happens at the very end of the movie, but prior to that, it was a waiting game - a waiting game with characters that don’t do much. There was a lot of wasted potential in Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Moore played a very restrained rebel leader. I don’t know if it was by choice or if she was written that way, but it almost feels like her character could have been played by anyone at this point. Hoffman (God rest his soul) on the other hand, was a bit more interesting as the movement’s communications director. How I wish both him and Harrelson had more screen time and dialogue.

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More Plutarch and Haymitch!

Beetee, the only guy in the movie who ever really does anything.

More to that point was Peeta Mellark, who appears only briefly, and mostly in TV screens as the poster boy for President Snow. Just as Katniss is the resistance’s face, so was Peeta for the Capitol. Josh Hutcherson had some pretty great performances in the short time he appeared. But they were just too short! I can’t wait to get more of him in the sequel next year because for sure, he’s going to play a much bigger part in the story again. *wink wink*
This guy CANNOT catch a break!

But at the very least, Jennifer Lawrence makes the movie bearable. There were a lot of strong moments for Katniss as she tries to get her bearings in this more dismal world she’s woken up to. I even felt myself starting to tear up a couple of times! If there was anyone who could pull off a character that’s both tough and sympathetic, it would be JLaw. And by that merit alone, I was willing to forgo some of the movie’s faults.

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Just like these photos, the movie was pretty...but still kinda boring.

There are books that warrant a two-part movie, but Mockingjay really isn’t one of them. Most of my problems all boil down to simple the fact that splitting this book into two just wasn’t necessary. It became a tad too long and as a result, boring. A lot of the developments that happened here could’ve just as easily been shown in a prequel comic or special video featurette or something. This was clearly just a money-making scheme by the film studio. (Tyranny! It’s probably President Snow that runs the studio!) But on the brighter side, all the setup is now done and over with and the next movie will undoubtedly kick things into full gear! So here’s hoping Mockingjay Part 2 gives us an epic ending and concludes the Hunger Games series with a massive, explosive arrow, bang!


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