This is the third film in the Hunger Games series, so you probably already know what you need to know going in. If you haven’t seen the first two, you’ll be completely unprepared for this one. I’ve seen the others multiple times and I’ve read all the books. Can Mockingjay deliver?
The gist. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is now the symbol of a growing rebellion. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and the people of the Capitol are putting their foot down and squashing all insurgents but it’s believed that Katniss’s voice will help rally the people. She’s joined in this effort by her best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth), who is head over heels for the girl on fire. We’re joined by Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Natalie Dorner, Stanley Tucci, and more. Josh Hutcherson also returns as Peeta, who is caught on the enemy side of the war and his allegiances are unclear.
I was hesitant about this movie being split in half but it definitely gave us moments that would’ve likely been cut altogether if that were the case. Most of this film focuses on the idea of propaganda and using Katniss, including some amazing scenes where they shoot (or attempt to shoot) promotional videos to rally the people together. I got goosebumps on more than a few occasions, as Jennifer Lawrence delivered incredible performances again, with rousing and inspirational speeches.
We also finally got some depth from Gale (Hemsworth) who appears in this movie more than his total screentime of the first two movies together. He has one especially poignant scene with Katniss that finally sold me on their relationship, since so much of the movie’s focus has been on Peeta.
There’s also one really great scene featuring former victor Finnick (Sam Claflin) where he monologues over the film’s coolest scene, featuring some night vision espionage. So many of the secondary characters get bulldozed by the main cast, so it was nice to see Finnick get at least one moment.
What didn’t work?
Visually, the movie is pretty boring to watch. Every scene is either in an underground bunker or in the gray ruins of civilization. The first two movies featured the Capitol heavily, with all its flamboyant colors, but this one is lacking that color and it just made the movie kind of look boring. The few scenes with some color stood out, only pointing out the beige-ness of the rest of the film.
Also, being cut into two films, this film lacks any sort of closure. On its own, it really only focuses on the propaganda piece and then the final act tries to build up into the final film, but it makes the hour and a half before that seem almost inconsequential. In the big picture, spending a 45-minute scene on shooting a promo video doesn’t seem to carry the same weight as a vicious attack that gets the same amount of screentime.
And again, some of the really cool supporting cast members get relegated to only a scene or two, while Julianne Moore’s new character gets almost as much time as Katniss herself.
Mockingjay – Part 1 is a good movie, with some interesting perspective on propaganda and insurgency. Lawrence delivers again as our heroine but unfortunately other characters get pushed aside. There are a few sparse action scenes that mostly take place in gray ruins of civilization. The movie lacks color but the bigger issue is that it lacks a punch, as the movie was cut into two, maybe unnecessarily. Catching Fire is likely a better complete film but Mockingjay – Part 1 delivers some crucial moments and is overall pretty enjoyable.