Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1 (2014) film review

Year: 2014
Running Time: 123 minutes
Director: Francis Lawrence
Writers: Suzanne Collins (based on the novel by), Peter Craig and Danny Strong (screenplay)
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Sam Claflin, Natalie Dormer, Jena Malone

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1 will be released in Australian cinemas on November 20 and is distributed by Roadshow Films. To be released in the United States on November 21 and the United Kingdom November 20.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1 takes place in the days following the dramatic finale of The Hunger Games in which Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) was rescued and taken to the once thought destroyed, District 13. While Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) expect Katniss to be grateful for her rescue, all she can think of is how Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is now in The Capitol as a hostage and must be rescued. They inform her that they wish to make her the Mockingjay, the face of the rebellion against the Capitol to free the people of Panem. Katniss is hesitant at first, until she sees the destruction of her home, District 12 and agrees to become the Mockingjay with the condition that the victors being held hostage are brought to District 13.

Unlike the first two films in The Hunger Games franchise, Mockingjay- Part 1 has lacked the excitement and feeling of importance in the lead up that one feels it should possess to maintain the enthusiasm for the phenomenon. Making the final book in The Hunger Games trilogy written by Suzanne Collins into two separate films was always going to be problematic from a narrative and excitement point of view as it is only the half telling of the explosive final book. As the third but not final film in the series, the release of Mockingjay- Part 1 isn't as anticipated as the first and second films and without a doubt as the final film to be released late 2015 will be. The initial The Hunger Games film was highly anticipated as the popular and much loved novel was being introduced to the screen, as was Catching Fire because of the pressure to maintain the high standards set by the first film and the finale is always awaited for the obvious reasons.

What this has meant for the film is that it was going to have to be something truly special to prove that just because it is only half of the finale, it deserves as much love as every other film in the franchise. The verdict is that Mockingjay-Part 1 is a fine film, but still has the resonating feeling that it is a bridge rather than an island. It merely feels as though it is connecting Catching Fire and Mockingjay- Part 2 rather than it being a film that could stand alone if it wanted to. This was an inevitable problem of the final book being split into two and one that was always going to be an enormous challenge to overcome. However, it is easily recognised that Mockingjay would have either been incredibly rushed or at a running time of close to four hours had it been one film so the idea of having a two film finale cannot quickly be dismissed as a negative. Writers, Peter Craig and Danny Strong have done a fine job of fleshing out the right aspects of the book for the film and have left the story hanging promptly for the final film.

Mockingjay- Part 1 has a rather different feel to it than the first two films as Mockingjay is more about the aftermath of The Hunger Games rather than the games themselves.  The film gives an accurate depiction of the hardships inflicted on civilians by warfare and of the creation of hope in such times. The visuals of the destroyed District 8 and 12 are incredibly moving, but they are also a spectacular CGI creation. The action that ensues is brief, but well constructed and suspenseful. The film also does a wonderful job at demonstrating how hope is built in such a time, which includes an interesting insight into the creation of propaganda. The process can almost seem comical at times, but the end result is one of the utmost sincerity. The scene in which Katniss sings "The Hanging Tree" is a beautiful, peaceful moment in the film and the musical score throughout the whole film is quite beautiful.

In Jennifer Lawrence's third outing as Katniss Everdeen, she proves that she has not lost momentum with the character and that she is growing with her. From the opening moments of Mockingjay-Part 1, Lawrence once again gives a wonderful performance as a character who has trouble relating to most people as a result of the hardships she has been through and has incredibly complex internal battles taking place. It is a rather solemn and cheerless performance, which is exactly what the film calls for.

Mockingjay-Part 1 has an incredible cast and the majority do a wonderful job. Josh Hutcherson is on screen for a very short amount of time in comparison to his co-stars, but makes a great impact with the time he has. Liam Hemsworth, on the other hand, doesn't give much in his performance, which is surprising as he has a great deal to do in the film.

Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket gives a performance quite unlike that of the past Hunger Games films. As times have changed, Effie doesn't seem to be the same woman she was as she has been deprived of her luxurious clothes and make-up. However, Banks proves that it is not the clothes that make the character as she is still the complete embodiment of the eccentric Effie in manner and posture even when wearing the plainest of outfits. Natalie Dormer as Cressida becomes a character quite unlike those she has been known to play and proves her versatility as an actor.Donald Sutherland is the perfect brand of evil as President Snow and one looks forward to seeing a great deal more of him in Mockingjay-Part 2.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1 is placed in an interesting situation in relation to the other films in it's series. It's anticipation isn't as great as it's place and existence ensures that it will not be the strongest nor most entertaining film of the franchise, which is proven to be true. However, the subject material is fleshed out as much as it can be and what the film does well, it does very well.


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