The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is the third film in the dystopian young adult franchise about archer extraordinaire Katniss Everdeen. Mockingjay is the final book in the trilogy, and in true young adult adaptation spirit, it’s being split into two parts. Unfortunately, not enough happens in the book to truly warrant a second movie, and there’s no clear place to end the film, so the movie ends up feeling a lot like an overly-long episode of a TV show. The fact that this film isn’t self-contained really harms the impact and sustainability it has on the audience. At the end of the day, the film never really leads up to anything, and ends up feeling like just a waste of time.
The story continues directly where Catching Fire ended, with Katniss recovering after destroying the 75th annual Hunger Games. It is decided that she will be the “Mockingjay” for the rebellion, meaning that she will be the symbol to spur morale amongst the rebelling districts. There is also a lot of relationship drama in the film, as Gale is comforting Katniss and has to deal with the fact that Katniss is interested in Peeta, who is in the hands of the Capital.
Other than this, nothing really happens in the film. You could take out any scene of this film and it would be essentially the same movie. The same points are repeated over and over for the sake of extending the run-time, if nothing else. The attempts at humor are cringe-worthy, and there’s an incredibly uncomfortable portion of the film with Jennifer Lawrence singing a capella. There’s not really any significant character development in the film either. The character archetypes that are established early on in this film or previous films are hardly expanded on. The film just feels like it’s meandering around.
Here’s the thing. The whole point that the previous books/films have been trying to make is that these “Hunger Games” are absolutely atrocious and we should be ashamed if we’re intrigued by them. The problem with this is that the games have been so tame (due to the necessary PG-13 ratings) that we’re not shown the brutality of the situation, and we’re just left fantasizing about what we would do if we were in this situation. This is especially a problem because the games become the only interesting things the story has to offer. Without the games in this movie, all we’re left with is bad political commentary. People who say they watch The Hunger Games for the political commentary are lying, because all the movies essentially have to say is “Corruption bad. Equality good.”
On a production level, Mockingjay – Part 1 is competent enough. The performances are okay and special effects are done well enough, but there’s no sense of satisfaction in the film. When the movie ends, it doesn’t feel like you just finished a movie, it just feels like there are credits midway through the film and then the film stops. The payoff is in the next movie, and that makes this movie forgettable at best, a time-waster at worst. 4/10.