REVIEW: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1
Protagonist Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has the weight of the world on her shoulders in this much-anticipated sequel, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1. Not only does she have an awful name but if she isn’t being oppressed by Dictator Snow (Donald Sutherland) with the rest of the dystopian post-apocalyptic nation, Panem, she’s being used as a symbol to fuel the revolution: The Mockingjay.
The film depicts the aftermath of the 75th annual Hunger Games, where victors of past games involving teenagers from each of Panem’s 12 poor districts were forced to fight to the death in an arena laced with traps and danger. Katniss has been rescued and is enjoying sanctuary of the people of District 13, which was believed to have been destroyed. She is convinced into being the figurehead of a mass rebellion, all while trying to rescue Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), one of two of her love interests who fought in the Hunger Games with her and is now hostage of Snow’s controlled city, the Capitol.
Largely what makes this film is having such a courageous female lead and Jennifer Lawrence does well portraying her aloof character, who basically has to turn off most of her emotions to deal with the trauma she endures. Ironically, her lack of words at the start of the film says it all. We see her transform from being a reluctant leader to gradually embracing her inner crusader for justice and igniting the nation. Tender moments she shares with her younger sister and teasing her sister’s cat show a softer side to her, making her more relatable for the audience, whilst Jennifer Lawrence’s interpretation of Katniss’ raw emotion when discovering her home town has been brutally destroyed, makes for captivating viewing.
Audiences have come to expect slow storylines and a heart-stopping cliff-hanger with the recent Hollywood trend of splitting final sequels of blockbuster franchises into two parts. Indeed, the plot is a bit too slow in this character-driven film where epic special-effects scenes of destruction replace action, and it seems every time the rebels get ahead the Capitol strike back as if the war is a tit for tat battle that serves to trivialise the people’s quest for democracy. Though another way of looking at it is that the movie’s slow pace reflects the gradual fight and patience the rebels need in their fight for freedom.
With the other films in this series I read the book, by Suzanne Collins before seeing the films, meaning I had preconceptions of how I thought the story would unfold and look like. With this one, though I haven’t got around to reading the book so in terms of acting I reckon the standard is pretty high with actors like the late Philip Seymour Hoffman getting their characters pretty spot on. Katniss’ mentor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) lightens the tone occasionally with an alcoholic’s sense of humour, whilst Game of Thrones actress Natalie Dormer, boldly shaves her head to play Capitol film director turned rebel propaganda filmmaker, Cressida offering a edgier, stronger female role to Katniss. We also get to see more of noble Gale, Katniss’ love interest before she went into the original Hunger Games, played by Liam Hemsworth, younger brother of Thor actor, Chris Hemsworth, in this instalment which is nice, further intensifying the love triangle dynamic.
But rousing speeches and themes, plus Katniss’ dry sense of humour- when questioned, “and if you get killed?” she amusingly replies, “make sure you get it on camera,””- mean this paves the way for an awesome finale you’d love if you were a fan of Divergent.