The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 23rd November 2014
It’s not that this is a bad movie, but it’s simply not as good as it should be.
The minute the “Hunger Games” books hit the bedside tables of young adults everywhere, a movie franchise was a given. The page-turning, dystopian treatise about young people fighting one another to the death in a gladiatorial contest constructed by an evil Big Brother is now into its third of four cinematic parts.
The first movie set the scene nicely, catapulting a starlet named Jennifer Lawrence into the big-time (and rapidly her first Oscar win for Silver Linings Playbook once Hollywood realised she could turn her hand to any role). Unusually, the second film Catching Fire was widely regarded a knock-out, mixing dynamic exposition with another bout in the arena of certain death. It left us on a worthy cliffhanger and with a whole year to anticipate Katniss Everdeen’s fate.
Having directed the second installment, Francis Lawrence (no relation, one is obliged to point out) has slackened the reins on this drawn out and somewhat ponderous sequel which seems designed merely to fill in narrative time before the grand finale of next year’s Mockingjay Part 2.
The performances are solid (bolstered without doubt by the presence of heavyweights Julianne Moore and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) and the darker, distinctly pessimistic tone may inveigle viewers whose threshold for interminable teen love triangles is set low. Stylistically, this episode evokes Ender’s Game and aspects of Edge of Tomorrow, with Katniss recast as the saviour of the rebellion (complete with stirring promo videos and an Angel of Death costume).
However, the earnestly slow pace undermines some key turning points which deliver neither the pathos nor the character shifts they ought to. Although we are spared yet another rendition of arena combat (they couldn’t trot that out for a third go), it’s at the expense of any drama, intrigue or excitement.
Of course, those who have read the books or seen the previous films should see this one – but be warned: Mockingjay Part 1 is not going to set the world on fire.