Caution: This review contains spoilers.
“Mockingjay Part 1” is a different film than “Hunger Games” and “Catching Fire.” The chatter is divided about the decision to split the final book in Suzanne Collins’ popular series about Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), the “face of the revolution” against President Snow and his Capitol supporters. Undoubtedly, Lionsgate is probably copying the examples of other popular teen series such as “Harry Potter” and “Twilight.” In this case, going with two parts created a film that revolves more around political intrigue and darker tones. However, it also results in a very slow pace at times, almost bringing the feeling of “too little, too late” in the progression.
The film opens with Katniss at District 13, angry about the plan to extract her from the games. Peeta Mallark (Josh Hutcherson) was left behind, resulting in his capture and subsequent torture at the Capitol. After viewing the destruction at her home district, Katniss agrees to make some propaganda videos to convince people to join the rebellion. Unfortunately, Peeta shows up on Capitol TV as a tool of propaganda, which pits the two friends against each other over the airwaves. Gale steps up his role in the revolution, helping with the film project and the Tribute rescue mission. When Peeta is finally rescued, they discover that he’s been hijacked and has an uncontrollable urge to kill Katniss. There’s little else to say about the plot, save that it brings Katniss and the revolutionaries closer to the final uprisings against the Capitol. More focus is applied to the feelings that many of the characters have about the revolution, particularly fear, anger, and some hope. Indeed, there’s much to convey that these are dark times.
Donald Sutherland definitely comes off as creepy in “Mockingjay Part 1.” Usually, President Snow appears stern and annoyed in the film, but at the very end, he sports a very sickening grin as he taunts Katniss. The crawl to the finish line is also bolstered by the inclusion of other actors who are strong on their performances: Julianne Moore, Donald Sutherland, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, and even a little bit of Woody Harrelson. Not to say that Jennifer Lawrence didn’t act well because she does a good job at carrying the film along, particularly on Katniss’ frustration with her situation and her separation from Peeta. Lawrence can also add another accomplishment to her record, as her eerie track “The Hanging Tree” broke into the UK top 40 at the 29th position.
It’s just interesting that the events of “Part 1” comprise little more than the first quarter of the novel. What happened to the days of “Lord of the Rings”? The series in question spanned three movies, just like the books, and then offered a treasure trove of extra footage that brought the three installments to a whopping 12 hours and delighted many fans.
“Mockingjay Part 1” may be in the lead so far, but coming into the box office arena tomorrow is “Imitation Game,” which has already generated so much praise at the film festivals. It’ll be fun to see how the box office results turn out, given the popularity of Benedict Cumberbatch, who seems to be everywhere at the moment.