The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)
Dir: Francis Lawrence
It’s the beginning of the end, both for the powerful Capitol and for this powerful franchise.
After being lifted from the arena unconscious at the end of the last film, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is taken to the relative security of the underground District 13 now sheltering the survivors of the destruction of District 12. There she is made the face of the rebellion, and becomes key in the ‘cat and mouse’ fight between the rebels with their President Coin (Julianne Moore), and the Capitol with the formidable President Snow (Donald Sutherland).
As seems almost obligatory now, the final book of the series as been split into two films. Everyone seems to grumble about this technique, stating that it’s financially motivated rather than artistically necessitated, however in this particular case I’m completely in agreement with it being spread over two films. I’ve read the book, so I know what needs to be covered, and it’s a lot. I don’t think that one film could really contain everything is needs to from the book, and certainly wouldn’t allow for it to be covered properly which after two great adaptations would be a huge disappointment.
I like how each film is distinctly different. The first two have the eponymous games, but despite what people think there’s so much more to them than that, don’t get to the game until after half way. This time it’s all about the other things, a focus on the propaganda war. Really good at getting over the politics and deeper themes, especially as President Coriolanus Snow is really fleshed out here much more than previously allowed for. We also start to get to know President Coin, who is given a nicely understated performance here by Julianne Moore who apparently wanted the role after reading the books and reached out for it rather than being approached. She’s fully aware of how the character will develop and there are glimpses of that shining through in her performance.
The main characters all have adapting roles here, with no games to feature, they are struggling with drastic changes in circumstance. Katniss is clearly suffering from post-traumatic stress and maybe a little bit of survivors guilt, confined underground in shelter that while protective is so far from the lush green forests that she’s always loved, then thrust into the limelight again and essentially the masthead of a risky revolution that she supports but hadn’t asked to be part of. Peeta is digitally emaciated, looking clearly tortured, Josh Hutcherson said he enjoyed his role in this film as it gave him the chance to play a drastically changed character with some new challenges.
It may have only been nominated for ‘Best Original Song’ at the Golden Globes in the awards season, and the song ‘Yellow Flicker Beat’ by Lorde is fantastic, but the film as a whole fully deserves to be recognised as a really excellent piece of work. Funnily enough, my personal choice for the key song of the film would be ‘The Hanging Tree’ as that’s what I and my friends all left the cinema humming, and it got Jennifer Lawrence a top 40 hit which just added to her pure awesomeness even more!
I’m looking forward to the final instalment, but will ultimately be sad to see the end of the franchise as I’ve enjoyed them so much. There’s a lot to get out of these films, I’ve seen each one at least twice and think it’s about time for me to go back to the books again to get even more from the source material, as there’s really a lot there to get.