Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Hunger Games - Mockingjay - Part 1

Year: 2014
Director: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Sam Claflin

Plot: After the destruction of District 12 courtesy of President Snow, Katniss Everdeen resides in the underground base of District 13, where its leader, President Alma Coin plans a rebellion using Katniss as their weapon. Snow on the other hand uses Peeta Mellark as his weapon to quell the rebellion across Panem.

Review: If the first two instalments of the Hunger Games films focused on survival, Katniss' in particular, this film takes an entirely different route by focusing on politics. This unfortunately makes Mockingjay Part 1 the weakest instalment so far.

This film spends three quarters of its runtime showing Katniss' preparation and eventual execution of anti-Capitol propaganda to fuel the rebels' cause, all at the behest of Alma Coin, leader of District 13. Supposedly staying true to the book, director Francis Lawrence shows Katniss recording and filming anti-government propaganda to broadcast to the other districts, in hope of getting them to stand up and fight back. As usual, Katniss needs some coercing as she is more concerned with Peeta's welfare, and she isn't used to becoming a hero for the people.

The problem is Francis spends so much time on Katniss and the propaganda stuff that the film drags, and there isn't much room for anything else. One feels that this particular book didn't need to be split into two films, and this is just a cash grab for the studios. There were many things here that could be shortened or left out, and certain minor characters like Effie Trinket could have been excised completely as well.

Cast wise, other than Jennifer Lawrence, Julianne Moore and Liam Hemsworth, the rest of the cast would be lucky if they had ten minutes of screen time, give or take. Jennifer is once again on point here as Katniss, though she has too little to offer here other than looking distraught most of the time. It's not Jennifer's fault, it's the script, so kudos to her for making the character work even in these conditions. Hemsworth gets the chance to step up here, now that Josh Hutcherson gets much less focus surprisingly, but his character Gale has always been rather bland, and that hasn't changed. The rest of them get too little to do unfortunately, despite having certain moments to shine. If you blinked, you'd miss Jena Malone. Poor girl.

Another thing that bothered me was the whole propaganda thing. In the past, using Katniss' relationship with Peeta, whether it was real or not, as a tool for their survival was something we can believe in. But here, they actually have a film crew led by Game Of Thrones' Natalie Dormer follow Katniss around to record her activities and speeches to broadcast to the people. I know this happened in the books, sure, but does this actually work on screen? After everything that happened in the first two films, is it necessary to continue fueling the people's hopes to fight back? It is as if everything Snow does is forgotten so easily, that Katniss has to remind them who the enemy is. The scene where she records a message for the first time at Plutarch Heavensbee's direction was laughable and not in a good way. Maybe they were trying to make the audience laugh but seriously, that didn't feel right at all.

The worst part is, we have to wait a full year before we can end this once and for all. Thanks to Francis, who at least gave the audience a well directed final 15 minutes of this instalment, my excitement is somewhat stoked to see this to the end next year. If only there was more to write about Part 1, in a good way I mean. (6/10)

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