- Movie Rating -

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 (2014)

| November 23, 2014 | 0 Comments

It is amazing that by the time The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 end that its heroine, Katniss Everdeen, isn’t locked in a padded cell. Here is a woman whose been through two kill-or-be-killed tournaments, who has watched her people die one by one, and then finds herself cast in the role of leading a revolution against the oppressive government. The weight of these events appear unmistakably in a face filled with tears and pain and doubt.  That she doesn’t crack under the pressure is to her credit.  That I didn’t crack under the movie’s weight is to my credit.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 is a gloomy and unremitting experience, a movie so sour that afterwards you want to go watch a dopey comedy just to get your mind right. This not a commentary on the quality of the film, but on the material itself. Suzanne Collins did not write a happy story and director Francis Lawrence is happy to comply.  In this second sequel we are now past The Hunger Games and well into the revolution, the war is on, and many will fall.  Brother will kill brother and blood will be spilled.  That’s . . . entertainment?!

The movie picks up almost immediately where Catching Fire left off with Katniss now being groomed to lead a revolution against the national government that is hell-bent on keeping the huddled masses in their place. The revolutionaries led Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (the late Philliip Seymour Hoffman) have moved underground and Katniss is still getting use to her place in the grand scheme of things. The story that is presented here is more or less a game of cat and mouse. The oppressed set off a series of moves and countermoves in order to knock a dent in the government’s military power while Katniss deals with the possible fate of her on-screen lover Peeta who is being propped up as a tool of the government.

The story is more complicated than it needs to be. What makes the works is its scale. Much of this movie is shot in tight close-ups and cramped quarters. We don’t see a lot of the government’s military attaché, and that’s a good thing – it gives us a sense that we’re just as in the dark as the heroes.

Those scenes work. What doesn’t work is the dialogue. It’s hard to get close to any of the supporting players because the dialogue is flat and utilitarian and only exists to further the plot along. Its no fun to listen to these people talk. The only person who breaks the staleness is Elizabeth Banks as The Hunger Games former P.R. director Effie Trinket. She wasn’t in this part of the book, but her role here is expanded to give the movie some much-needed levity. She’s fun, but sadly her scenes are woefully short.

The best thing about the movie is Jennifer Lawrence. It is to her credit that she manages to spend the entire film looking as if she’s just survived a plane crash, and she does it with a lot of conviction. That’s just the right note. Katniss is an otherwise normal person who has been through more heartache and pain than should be asked of anyone; and yet has been pegged as being the salvation of all around her. That’s a burden, and the terrified look on her face gives us doubt that she can pull it off. She isn’t confident, she isn’t bold, she isn’t brave. She’s been through the ringer and now she has a job to do that she clearly isn’t ready for. It would have been wrong to give Katniss some kind of false heroic burst. The fact that she is unsure of her role here gives weight to Lawrence’s performance.

Those credits aside, you know what? I just didn’t feel good when this movie was over. It’s so sour and so grim that by the time the credits rolled, I was kind of glad that the misery had ended. These are terribly unhappy circumstances happening to terribly unhappy people. The movie is in desperate need of a comic relief, something to bring it out of the doldrums of misery and despair. I understand that this is the last chapter before the conclusion, the darkness before the dawn – but GEEZ! – somebody tell a joke.  Something.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2014) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized