Movie Review: Mockingjay Part 1 (Spoiler-Free)

“Miss Everdeen, it is the things we love most that destroy us.”

–  President Snow

 

mjayposterI should start this review by saying I have read all of the Hunger Games books. I think this is important because for book-to-screen adaptions like this, book fans such as myself will have a far more critical outlook on said film. I’m looking less at the story being told and more at how the film crew manages to tell it.

That being said, let’s get cracking.

I’ll start this review off bluntly and say that Mockingjay Part 1 did not in any way top Catching Fire. Instead, this movie was more on par with the first film of the series: faithful to the material, and quite in the spirit of the franchise, but woefully lacking in adding any new, smart touches to the story.

Here’s what I mean. If you recall, the first Hunger Games movie was well-done, but it took an hour and eight minutes to get to the actual Hunger Games. Parts of it felt like they dragged on, especially the opening, and overall I thought as well as the story was told, it lacked crisp direction.

Conversely, Catching Fire blew me away. The plot moved at lightning pace and was neatly presented in a smart, concise way. What’s more, the movie took on a personality of its own—while remaining faithful to source material, of course. For example, who can forget Johanna’s famous elevator dressing scene? Or President Snow’s line: “They’re holding hands. I want them dead.” I found myself laughing aloud much more than I’d anticipated. At the same time, there were small touches, such as the shot of the door closing right before the man in District 11 is shot in the head.

The makers of Mockingjay Part 1, for whatever reason, pounded their fists on the table and said, “You know that first film? The one that’s the worst in the series? Let’s make another one like that!”

I hope I’m establishing a clear picture here. Mockingjay isn’t at all a bad movie, it just fails to leave any sort of dent in comparison to Catching Fire. I’m willing to say it’s a slight improvement over the first installment, with about the same number of slight chuckles, and a remarkably similar sluggish pace.

I’m sorry if I sound harsh; I actually do quite love the entire series, but I’m a relativist with these sorts of things. Catching Fire is one of the closest things to a perfect film I’ve ever seen. Mockingjay Part 1 is woefully forgettable by comparison.

Much of the fault, I think, lies with the circus clowns in Hollywood who made the moronic decision to split this movie into two parts. If you were afraid that would affect the pace of the narrative, you were completely right. The story—while executed as best as it can be—is still awkward, contains about ten minutes total of real action, and is painfully full of filler scenes/dialogue. I would have gladly paid double the price of a movie ticket to see one incredible movie, rather than two diluted ones.

All this to say, I enjoyed it. Once it gets out of the shadow of its predecessor, it still brings many of the mostly-good elements of the first film to the table. We see uprisings in the districts…at this point, slightly trite, but still well-done. The film does a good job of setting up its finale, which hopefully will be the best installment yet. I also did enjoy the scene of Katniss singing the “Hanging Tree” song.

(And of course, who’s really surprised that J-Law can sing, on top of everything else?)

In Conclusion: While this movie contains many of the sluggish mistakes of the first film, it still stays faithful to its source material and does an impressive job of laying the groundwork for the real finale. It’s successfully made me excited for Part 2…and Prim should have a blast, also!

Too soon?

Rate: 7 out of 10.

If you liked this review, be sure to check out my reviews of the first Hunger Games Movie as well as Catching Fire!