“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” is a frustrating movie, because as I watched it I couldn’t help but bemoan the potential that this franchise had, potential which has been squandered by blatant pandering towards a young adult audience. The grit and futility enshrined by the books is completely lost in these movies, because the filmmakers refuse to portray the harsh reality of life in this universe. This film is, in my opinion, the worst of the series so far, because I feel that although each film has been disappointing, this one is the least entertaining when considered as a stand-alone movie. It’s everything that is wrong with blockbuster films right now; underdeveloped characters, subpar performances, and worst of all the breaking up of one story into two parts for no reason other than financial gain.
The story of the film is a familiar one for those who have read the book, as Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) attempts to live with life after The Hunger Games, dealing with the destruction of her childhood home, District 12, and at the same time is being forced to play the role of the hero in a battle against the Capitol. I don’t personally see this as a complete story worthy of taking up ninety minutes of my time, particularly because the extra time provided by breaking the book apart into two films isn’t spent on meaningful character development, instead the story is stretched thin by the fact that it completely panders to the love story between Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).
Supporting characters such as Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) are still painfully underutilised, and the film doesn’t really do a lot with the turmoil occurring within the districts. Despite the world falling apart around her, Katniss is more interested in the wellbeing of Peeta, her on-and-off lover, making her character less compelling than in the book, because she’s just selfish, self-obsessed, and plain.
Katniss should be an icon for female strength, doing whatever she can to protect her family, her people and the idea of freedom that she must have wished for since she was a child, but instead she pines for a boy she barely knows because apparently that’s all the filmmakers think young women can relate to. Jennifer Lawrence should showcase how a female lead can carry a successful action franchise, but the script gives her nothing to work with, making Katniss a character that simply cannot live without a man. She’s so damn one-dimensional, as opposed to the picture of Katniss I had whilst reading the book, who I connected to due to her coldness, her power, and her brutality when that reaction was necessary.
The acting in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” was below par, and although I think that the writers and the director have to be partly to blame, it’s still unacceptable. Jennifer Lawrence was laughable at times, and is guilty of some serious overacting. Her character is out of her comfort zone, and she’s obviously got a lot of pain to deal with, so a few tears are necessary, I get that, but she’s still a beacon of hope for the suppressed people in every district, and I want to get the feeling that Katniss as a character has truly understood that from Lawrence’s performance. Sadly, that feeling is never portrayed, and there doesn’t seem to be much inner conflict happening in Katniss’ mind. I never felt as though she was thinking about her role in the grand scheme of things when she visited District 8, or when she talked to President Snow (Donald Sutherland), she was just doing as she was told so that she could rescue her ‘boyfriend’.
It’s so frustrating, because although I’m sure there was a lot of instruction given to Jennifer Lawrence to keep the emphasis on Peeta and the way in which Katniss is growing in love for him as he’s away, I still think she should be a capable enough actress to give a performance which showcases what would really be going on inside Katniss’ mind. She went into The Hunger Games in the first place to save the life of her sister, and that process is still ongoing, because her sister is in mortal danger every day in District 13, so why isn’t her focus on doing everything she’s told to the best of her ability anyway?
The story requires that Peeta should play a role, but the best performances are those in which the character appears to be living and thinking and understanding her situation; Lawrence doesn’t get that across here at all. She cries when she has to (overdramatically), she gets angry when she’s supposed to (but she doesn’t sell me on that at all), and she acts vulnerable when she has to, but none of those emotions feel as though they are real, and I’m always aware that I’m watching an actress play a character.
There weren’t any good performances to speak of, and although that may seem harsh, given the fact that Woody Harrelson and Josh Hutcherson were fine when they were on screen, those characters weren’t present enough to really appraise the performances of the actors properly. It’s fair to say that Hutcherson was decent as Peeta, (I don’t think he did anything wrong), but his performance still wasn’t anything special, which fits perfectly with the quality of the movie as a whole.
There’s nothing really noteworthy in these films, other than the source material, which is being interpreted very poorly. When I say that the books are being mistreated or badly recreated, I don’t mean that the story has been changed, because this film doesn’t really omit much content from the book, as it needs every little scrap in order to stretch to two films and make the most money for the studio. What this film and this franchise do to destroy my memory of the books is make the characters feel so much less honourable and noble. The filmmakers attempt to cater towards a young audience by making their motives unsophisticated and childish, underestimating the intelligence of said audience and misunderstanding how to make a successful audience for a younger demographic.
As I’ve already mentioned, the script was just terrible, and a lot of exposition was given unnaturally through dialogue. I hate it when films do this, because to me it just feels completely lazy, and showcases the fact that the writers can’t find a way to tell the story in a new and interesting way. When the dialogue between two characters feels unnatural, or is there only to move the story along, it takes away from the immersion of the film you’re watching, and makes you consciously aware of the fact you’re watching a movie. To me this feels like a kick in the teeth from the writers, because they clearly don’t trust the intelligence of their audience at certain points in this movie, having to tell us what we’ve already seen in case we’d forgotten, or telling us what was about to happen just in case we are too stupid to figure it out.
The biggest gem in this movie, my personal favourite line, (but I’ve only seen the film once so it could be a slightly off translation), was ‘you were stung in your first games remember’. Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) felt the need to tell Katniss this fact, just in case she’d forgotten about this traumatic event which happened in what were undoubtedly the most memorable few days of her life. That line was only there to remind the audience of what happened in the first film, and there were plenty more like it, which leads me to believe that I could’ve written a more credible script for this movie!
I could go on criticising this film for its monotony and lack of quality, but instead I will offer some advice; don’t watch this movie. Don’t give the filmmakers any more money for making a shoddy film with no substance or class. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, and you think that you’ll want to see the second part when it rolls around at the end of the year, I’d suggest that you go on YouTube and watch a review that contains spoilers, because you’ll get the gist of things pretty quickly. There’s nothing special about this movie, it’s completely forgettable and distinctly average (not that this is much of a surprise considering its predecessors). The best scene is when Buttercup (Prim’s cat) chases a pesky torch light, which tells you everything you need to know.