Release Date: 20 November 2014
Running Time: 123 min
Director: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman
A lot can be read into the name of a film. Take The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 for instance, perhaps the ugliest and most impractical title since 2003’s Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life. Like the title, the film itself is vastly overlong and doesn’t really say much in the end. There’s a lot of moping in this one.
After being dramatically rescued from the games arena at the end of Catching Fire, Katniss Everdeen (the omnipresent Jennifer Lawrence) is hiding out in District 13; an underground city that houses the rebellion. It’s not all plain sailing though. Her friend/love interest Peeta is being held by Donald Sutherland’s smirkingly evil President Snow, her home District has been utterly razed and she is now, unwillingly, the face of the revolution. Plagued by nightmares and anxiety attacks, she must inspire and unite the Districts of Panem against the tyranny of the oppressive Capitol by making a series of propaganda films with Margaery Tyrell from Game of Thrones. Obvs.
The third entry in the Hunger Games franchise has become very dour, lacking the humour and satirical bite of the first two films. The flamboyant decadence of characters like Stanley Tucci’s purple haired TV host is swapped out for the hard bitten but humourless documentary crew that follow Katniss around. District 13 with its concrete blocks and fluorescent lighting looks like a multi storey car park populated by earnest and austere soldiers and politicians. It’s like Zion in The Matrix trilogy but everyone wears dark jumpsuits instead of woolly jumpers with holes in them. Only Sutherland’s deliciously evil commander in chief adds any spark to proceedings with his malevolent grin and piercing glare, everyone else just seems to mope about in dimly lit corridors and huge swathes of rubble. Visually, things are drab and drained of colour with a palette made up largely of blacks, whites and greys.
Sadly Jennifer Lawrence’s performance is as muted as the photography, and she struggles to bring any of her usual charisma to proceedings. Her main duty is to turn up at the scene of some war atrocity and look sad and/or appalled while Julianne Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman talk conspiratorially back in District 13 about the next stage of the revolt. As the story practically grinds to a halt, Katniss becomes a passenger in her own film, a problem caused by the momentum sapping (and transparently cash motivated) decision to split the final book in the series into two films.
It’s not a complete disaster – there are a couple of well staged sequences of derring do as well as a boldly low key final act – it just feels like it’s treading water and is a bit of a letdown after the fun and flashy first two films. Still, the sets are impressive in their scale (there is an extravagant amount of rubble in this film) and the plot seems to be moving in an interesting direction even if it is moving there very gradually..
The Hunger Games franchise is so huge now that Mockingjay – Part 1 is pretty much critic proof. People will flock to see this regardless of reviews. A pity that; it’s by far the weakest film in the series so far.