One of the most annoying and insincere trends in contemporary Blockbuster movie-making is the greedy decision to divide one piece of source material into two separate films. This irritating move makes complete financial sense – allowing the studios to make 100% of the original profit all over again the following year. These two-parters are often filmed back to back – making it twice as easy to bring in twice the amount of money. The only film series that has thoroughly irritated me with this tactic is Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit franchise. I actually enjoyed the Harry Potter movies being prolonged and didn’t find that the Twilight movies dragged too much. The Hobbit is the only franchise to drag out just one small book over a mind-numbingly boring trilogy of movies. Now the Hunger Games returns to our screens with the first half of its final instalment. It is these openings of final chapters that tends to concern critics the most. The beginning of the end, these ‘Part 1’ films tend to be the most to blame for over-stretching material and milking the cash cow. I have not read the Hunger Games trilogy so therefore cannot comment on how the narrative plays out – simply because I have no idea what is to come in Part 2. Mockingjay – Part 1 certainly slows the pace of what has come before. Here, there are no fatal combat battles. This isn’t about the infamous games; this is about the rebellion against them. The film opens right where we left off, with our hero Katniss Everdeen now in the compounds of the rebel forces. Most of the movie takes place in this gloomy and claustrophobic setting. What unravels over the following two hours is a discussion about politics, propaganda and the ethics of revolution.
Katniss is now in the custody of the film’s good guys but we watch her undergo manipulation, confrontation and control at the hands of the rescuers who occasionally become her captives. Mockingjay – Part 1 slows everything down and stands as a pleasant interlude between the bloody action contained in the first two films and which is undoubtedly set to come in next year’s finale. There are certainly problems here but nothing that the sturdy performances cannot overcome. I remain unconvinced by the movies love triangle but also admire that this takes a back seat. This is a movie targeted at teens but it doesn’t talk down to them. It expects you to remember what came before and if you don’t remember all the detail then that’s just tough. I always enjoy seeing Jennifer Lawrence back as Katniss. Critics give her a hard time for relaxing back into this under-challenging role but I think she brings fire and fury to cinema’s most celebrated female warrior. Seeing her as Katniss also reminds us of how far she has come as an actress in only a few years. Julianne Moore is a pleasant new addition and Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland all returning with great presence and flare. The film dedicates itself to the memory of Philip Seymour Hoffman who will always be missed and who brings a sense of reason to the chaos taking place within the revolution. I stand by The Hunger Games and its good intentions. I don’t know what is to come so I can’t judge whether or not Part 1 was necessary. All I know is that I enjoyed this movie the most; enthralled by its bold decision to focus on discussion and not action.
Thanks for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.