The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is half a movie. It’s right there in the title: Part 1. Like Harry Potter and Twilight before it, the powers that be have decided to take the last story in a series of books and split it into two. The result is a film that is all build up with very little action, one that won’t be able to be fully appreciated until audiences can watch Part 1 and Part 2 together. Indeed, I strongly suspect that Mockingjay – Part 1 is exactly the kind of movie that will gain favour as time goes by for this very reason. It’s not a bad film by any means, but it is unfulfilling in and of itself.
That said, Mockingjay – Part 1 is still an engaging story. The plot is centred on a propaganda battle between the militaristic, underground rebellion brewing in District 13 and the high and mighty (and rather gaudy) aristocrats of the Capitol. The figurehead for District 13 is Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), now dubbed the Mockingjay. As the Mockingjay, Katniss becomes a symbol of rebellion, caught in President Coin’s (Julianne Moore) war against the tyrannical President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Katniss is now a pawn in a new role, against the Capitol but unsure of District 13 – the two sides recall images from history of ideologies pressing each other in world wars past.
What I loved about Mockingjay – Part 1 is how different it was from the first two films, which had previously stuck very close to the same Battle Royale formula. There’s no Hunger Games this time, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) has a very different role and the story is instead refocussed on the relationship between Katniss and Gale (Liam Hemsworth). The tone is also very dark, with a number of haunting scenes which set the stage for an intense and emotional finale.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 deepens the world of Panem, cementing it as one of the more memorable on-screen universes in recent memory. While it does move at a slow clip and has very little action (seriously, don’t expect this to be an action movie), it does leave things primed for one hell of a climax… it’s just a shame that we need to wait another year for it. Luckily, the odds are still in this franchise’s favour.