This film is proof that movies are being split for the sake of profit as opposed to story. Don’t get me wrong, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” is not a bad movie. It’s well-acted, well-shot and never had me laugh in derision (if a movie ever gets me to do that, it’s a sign that the film’s a stinker). It has some standout sequences that were extremely impressive on an emotional level. However, in addition to minimal action, the film still suffers from the same problem as the last two movies: the main characters.
I’ll address the main character’s issues first. Jennifer Lawrence is an amazing actress. She deserved her Oscar for “Silver Linings Playbook” and made me laugh in “American Hustle.” But her performance as Katniss Everdeen has always left more to be desired. It’s not bad; it just doesn’t stand out. Katniss has two emotions: bored and anxious. She looks like she’s in the middle of a Greek Mythology lecture unless Peeta happens to be in trouble.
And I have never been able to sympathize with Katniss, because she is motivated by her love for a boy to save Panem from the Capitol and not much else. I’ll give credit to the film for acknowledging when President Coin expresses her dissatisfaction with Katniss’s belligerent attitude, although it would have been better if, when Katniss told Coin to find another symbol of rebellion, Coin turned to Plutarch and said, “Welp, never mind then. Send in the next angsty teenager!”
And fulfilling the yang side of this hormone-driven story, Peeta still manages to come across as having the personality of a block of supermarket cheese: stale and uninteresting. I give credit to Josh Hutcherson for his subdued performance; the trauma that his character goes through is believable. But that doesn’t excuse the fact that he still has little to no personality to his name. Katniss probably should have gone for Gale. He’s equally bland, but at least he’s bad-ass.
Now that I’ve criticized the characters enough, like I do every time I review a “Hunger Games” movie, how were the action scenes? Well, mercifully brief. And to be honest, they were all the same: Capitol stormtroopers come in, slaughter some people and the people win through various flashy means. It looks cool, but it just serves as a reminder that we have to wait another year for the good stuff.
I appreciated that this movie did not shy away from showing the brutal atrocities of the Capitol. The sight of charred corpses amongst the ruins of District 12 was brutal and effective in showing how callous a government the Capitol is. It felt like something out of a Holocaust film.
The bunker sequence added a palpable sense of urgency to the movie. The frantic evacuation, the constant, booming sounds of the bombs hitting the surface and the ominous cracks that appear in the ceiling of District 13’s bunker brought together a scene that was extremely effective in conveying the distress and terror that District 13 was subjected to. Also, the sequence allowed Coin to show off her keen intellect and intuition, which is a relief, because otherwise she is not very interesting either.
What I appreciated most was that the movie added a scene you heard about, but never got to read in the book: the mission to rescue the tributes held captive in the Capitol. It’s a very tense section, reminiscent of the final half hour of “Zero Dark Thirty.” I loved how Katniss talked with President Snow as the raid was happening in an attempt to stall for time, and loved it even more when Snow revealed during their conversation how much of a sadistic, diabolical genius he is. Like most of the other characters, Snow is not complex, but at least he is unnerving.
To sum it up, I’d say wait for this movie to come out on Netflix unless you’re a die-hard fan of the franchise. Katniss and Peeta still aren’t compelling enough characters to carry the film, the “action” scenes are too few and too short and the number of standout scenes you’ll remember is a mere three. There was not enough story here to justify this being the first of a two-part film.