Tweetable Takeaway: While it entertains, listen closely and you can hear the studio heads counting the money made splitting Mockingjay into two movies.
By: Wil Loper, Contributor
Amid the explosions of the movie’s rebellion, the arrows let loose by Katniss, and the shaving of President Snow’s beard, there is another sound that can be heard if you listen very closely: the studio heads counting up all the money made splitting up THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1 into two movies. The movie entertains enough, but all too often advances the plot languidly for the sake of having two movies where one would have sufficed.
Mockingjay Part 1 picks up right where Catching Fire left us, with the rebellion of future dystopia Panem in full swing. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) has just escaped her second Hunger Games, and now is set to be the face of the revolution against the Capitol. Leader of the rebellion Alma Koin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman) help mold Katniss throughout the movie as the Mockingjay, the hero the repressed populace of Panem can get behind. Katniss even gets her own camera crew to follow her around, checking out the destruction and kindling the fire of rebellion.
Scenes play out slowly, methodically. After all, we have to stall this for another movie. A line repeated in both Catching Fire and this movie is “moves and counter-moves.” This is how the movie ought to have played out. We get that to a certain degree in this movie, though not nearly as urgently as it ought to be. Katniss and the rebels make their move, President Snow and the Capitol retaliate. Actions escalate. We escalate in this movie, but at a leisurely pace, which is at odds with the rebellion and how immediate the characters talk about the rebellion being. There’s a lot of behind the scenes politics and talk of how to orchestrate a revolution in this movie, and not much actual rebelling itself. Now this is no doubt what occurs in real-life planning of revolutions, and there are a handful of scenes that are fun to watch (one in which Katniss is unable to deliver a rousing line for the cameras). But movies aren’t about showing all the conferences between actually doing things. It’s about the actions of the rebellion. Or at the very least, paring down the conferences.
Again, there’s the sense that had this not been split into two parts, scenes would establish their purpose and we’d move along much more briskly. There is a scene where Katniss visits her home, District 12, sees that it has been destroyed, and is appropriately devastated. A little later on, the decision is made to visit District 12 again, and the movie begins to feel repetitive, where points are driven home twice and three times in a single scene.
There’s also the problem of whether this movie can stand on its own. The problem with movies being split apart to maximize profits is that the first part often builds up to the second, and doesn’t have a proper beginning, middle, and end. They’re all beginning and middle, and what a long and drawn out middle it is. The first Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Twilight: Breaking Dawn parts both suffered from this. The first part is stalled and the second part is back loaded with all the action. There’s a little more action in this one, at least. Mockingjay: Part 1 gives us lumberjacks with exploding minefields, and Katniss taking out an aircraft but the scenes are over and back to the planning room all too soon. The ending does give an inkling of a crescendo, but it’s too little for this movie and too late.
Mockingjay: Part 1 is still worth seeing to see where this saga ends up, as Part 2 will inevitably be packed with the majority of the action and will conclude the series in a more satisfying fashion than this movie. Watching Part 1 is an exercise in frustration; the frustration of knowing that the movie could have been quivers of arrows better if only the two had been combined into one smashing finale. Instead, in the name of making guaranteed money off the legions of loyal fans, we are left with a movie that feels incomplete and just plain boring at times. I give The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 3 leaping lumberjacks out of 5
Score: 3 out of 5