The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I ***
Dir: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson
The latest entry in the Hunger Games franchise, adapting the final book in Suzanne Collins’ young-adult dystopian future trilogy of books, has one big problem. It is very well done and Jennifer Lawrence turns in yet another terrific performance as Katniss Everdeen, the reluctant heroine at the heart of the books and the movies.
However, you can’t help shake the feeling that commerce has taken precedence over art (it usually does, but it’s not always as blatant as this) in the producers’ decision to turn one book into two movies. As a way of making some guaranteed bucks from the die-hard fans of the books, movies and Jennifer Lawrence, it’s a no-brainer (or so they think).This is the same sort of thinking that turned the final books in the Harry Potter and the Twilight series into two movies each and, in fact, turned The Hobbit into not just one, not even two, but three films – all to the detriment of the franchises, particularly the penultimate chapters, which often ended up being not much more than place holders for the final films in the series.
Mockingjay – Part I, however, does not just tread water. This is a much more political film than the first two entries in the series, giving us a slightly better understanding of the future imagined by Suzanne Collins, and serving as a neat exploration of the integral role played by propaganda in politics and war.
The games, which held centre stage in the first two movies, are absent this time around and hence some may find the action lacking a bit. There are some exciting bits, nevertheless, such as when Katniss and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) take on the Panem government’s fighter planes armed with nothing more than a bow-and-arrow and a big gun. The cast also does not phone it in with all the regulars from the first two movies returning and Julianne Moore proving to be a welcome addition as the leader of the rebels.
With all of its positives, I still can’t help but feel that the series and its fans would have been better served with a satisfying conclusion rather than just a set up for the finale to come. The so-called cliff-hanger that the movie ends on leaves a slightly bitter taste in the mouth rather than whetting the appetite.
Cut to chase: Well done but serves as more of a setup for the final chapter in the series.