For days now I have struggled to find the words to properly lead in to this review for the first part of the final film of the Hunger Games film franchise. Part of the problem is that it is impossible to summarize the feelings on the franchise with this second to last film simply because it isn't complete. It isn't complete in the same way that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 1 wasn't complete, it isn't complete in the same way Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1 wasn't complete and like those films, it makes this "chapter" in the franchise feel overly superfluous.
While some may take solace in the fact that once both parts are released they can then treat them as one, others (such as this reviewer) sees it as sucking the wind out of a franchise that was on the fast track to a bombastic conclusion. Regardless of what may await us in November of 2015, we have to contend with what has been delivered unto us now, in the present, and as it stands things aren't looking too good. Read the full review after the break.
Review Vital Stats:
Projector Type: Digital 2D
Film Rating: PG-13
Film Runtime: 2 hr 5 min
Studio: Lionsgate Film
Release Date: November 21, 2014
Likes: The entire cast, the second movie
Neutral: The first movie
Hates: Final books split into two movies
What happened to the games?: They are gone, now its war!
|Katniss contemplates being the Mockingjay...for two hours.|
After the muddled and disjointed first film left a sour taste in my mouth, then one year later it's much improved sequel came along and redeemed the franchise, we are now faced with the first part of the final book that had all this momentum leading up to it and all I have to say is what the hell happened? Anyone pumped after watching those final moments of the superior Catching Fire and coming into this highly anticipated next chapter expecting to see...something...anything even remotely interesting will sadly come away wondering what it was they just spent the last 2 hours watching.
|You better get used to this room, because we spend a lot of time in there.|
It's not that Mockingjay Part 1 is bad, it just doesn't deliver on the high expectations the last film set us up for and somehow turns Katniss from an asskicking heroine into a bland political bobble head. Blame it on the book, the director, the writers, the movie studio or whoever, it doesn't matter who, what or why is responsible for splitting the book into two movies. What matters is that we have a film that has sucked any excitement out of a franchise that was on its way to what should have been a thrilling conclusion. As quickly as that second film caught fire this follow up has just as quickly doused it out.
|Despite not doing a whole lot, Katniss still has her fans.|
While it is bad enough when the audience begins to check out of the action (due mainly to there not being any), it is even worse when the actual characters get so bored with what they are (or aren't) doing that they don't even have anything to say anymore. Seriously, at one point they are all just sitting around a river hanging out as if there aren't thousands of people dying in the other districts around them and the only guy who has anything to say is the damned mute. That is probably this film's biggest failure though, that it can't even do the very least to make the wait interesting.
|Peeta's interview sessions provides the only compelling drama in the entire film.|
Still though, the worse offense of the entire film is keeping Katniss at bay the entire time. Even the Zero Dark Thirty style operation that takes place at the very end is underwhelming because once again we see everything leading up to a big reveal and once that happens we cut away and are left wondering what happened. That seems to be the overriding theme of Mockingjay Part 1...string'em along for as as long as possible and just when you get to the cheese roll credits, thanks for your money, see you next year for the REAL movie.
|Faults and failures be damned, President Snow is still a great villain.|
None of this is even touching upon probably the biggest and most drastic alteration to the Hunger Games formula, which is the lack of the actual Hunger Games! While this was an inevitable outcome considering the growing prominence of the political angle in each film, it might come as a jarring transition for those who only liked the other films simply because of the idea of the games. The argument can be made that Katniss is now in a form of the Hunger Games that she can't escape from, but that doesn't do anything to change the fact that the switch from games to a war drama might be a deal breaker for some fans.
|The one and ONLY time Katniss fires her bow in the movie...sigh.|
They had a real shot here of making a really great trilogy, but the greedy nature of Hollywood has taken that away from the loyal fans. Instead they will have to suffice with an "OK" first film, a great second one, a poor third and quite possibly a great fourth and final film which will have to deal with the stigma of its poor fist part. Heck, if the fans of the Hunger Games are as rabid as the Star Wars fanbase then perhaps somewhere down the line there will be a fan edit that takes out the 20 to 30 useful minutes of footage from Mockingjay Part 1 and splices it together with the fourth film to create the trilogy this should have been.
Even with all its faults though, Mockingjay Part 1 does still set us up for what promises to be a very satisfying conclusion. It may have stretched 30 minutes worth of content into two hours, but there are still some nuggets in there that reveal a much better film on the way. This was a misfire for sure, but it isn't a detrimental one. Most everyone will still be looking forward to Part 2 regardless of the numerous failures of Part 1 simply because we all know the good stuff is being saved for next year. With that in mind, perhaps you should just wait and see this at home just before seeing Part 2.
In my review for Catching Fire I wrote the following, "Katniss versus Snow is gonna be a showdown for the ages." I still believe that for the most part, simply because the few scant minutes in Mockingjay Part 1 where the two of them square off verbally was the most exciting moments of the entire film. Hopefully when Mockingjay Part 2 is released next year we can all celebrate it's accomplishments and forget that this tragic misstep ever happened.