Release Date: 11/21/2014
Dir. Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen), Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark), Liam Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne), Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy), Sam Claflin (Finnick Odair), Donald Sutherland (President Snow), Julianne Moore (President Coin), Jeffrey Wright (Beetee), Willow Shields (Primrose Everdeen), Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket), Mahershala Ali (Boggs), Natalie Dormer (Cressida)
Walking in to Mockingjay Part 1, I was excited. However, it was a mitigated excitement that I didn’t experience with Catching Fire. That should have been the first sign of how I was going to feel toward this movie. Mockingjay Part 1 was fantastic, it was moving, it was emotional, but it felt like a part 1. I was longing for more in not a good way, but in a way that left me feeling that this story was so far from over. It left me on a damn cliffhanger. Something I should have been used to because of the end of Catching Fire. Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed Mockingjay Part 1. It was enjoyable and stirred up a lot of feels that many movies just are incapable of doing. But I can’t help but wonder how much more I would have enjoyed the story if I got one extra long movie, rather than two.
Mockingjay part 1 is the first endeavor into what is only a single book. Splitting the book into two parts, Mockingjay suffers from the same issues that man two parter finales suffer from, it feels like part one. You go into the theatre electing an epic conclusion and you leave satisfied by the material, but also confused because you still feel so lost. Two parters are tricky as often these books don’t have two very distinct sections. Instead, we get build up and prep and a certain number of action pieces. An artificial separation can be created, but you lose the cohesion. What made the book tight and the reason it was one book and not two is lost.
There are two reasons movies get split. The most obvious reason is that the studio gets to profit off two movies for a lower cost. Ramping up, going into production, recreating sets and gathering a crew together for a second time is more expensive, than shooting all the way through. Then the studio gets to reap all the benefits of having two potential hits. The other major reason for splitting a movie into two is that it allows the storytellers the opportunity to delve deeper into the source material. More screen time means that more elements of the story can be covered and more in depth. This allows elements of a movie to breath. Mockingjay definitely benefited from this. Yes, Mockingjay is shorter than Catching Fire (by only 1 page), but the content delved into a much more complicated than the games and their effect
The benefit of having a two parter is that Mockingjay is really able to let you delve deep into the story. Where the book only allows you to see events as they are informed to Katniss, the movie allows you to experience them. Moments like District 7 launching an attack from the trees on the peacekeepers. it was a truly epic moment that look truly beautiful and captivating as they stole into the trees and bombed the peacekeepers confused on the ground. Or District 5 bombing the dam as they charged forward into peace keepers gunning them down. these were moments that we wouldn’t have been able to see if we stuck to Katniss’ perspective, but it desperately added to how important the revolution was.
The movie benefited by having additional time to explore elements of the book that could have easily been left on the floor such as Katniss and Gale hunting. It was about the only clue that Katniss was longing for what she had before. We didn’t get to see just how much being trapped underground all the time was getting to her. Letting her go above ground and long for life and she how different things were was important. Without a longer run time, we wouldn’t have been afforded these moments.
The major downside is knowing that much of the really compelling stuff comes in the next movie while this one dealt with the raw emotions. It was almost too much feels that the movie was dishing out. You were immediately brought into a place of frustration with Katniss. While that may have been great to experience, it made this movie feel almost overloaded on the emotional side. Katniss has never been a strong one emotions wise. We saw her break down a number of times in the previous movies, but this time she seemed to wallow in those emotions, every so often breaking free. It is very much in line with the character and what she’s going through, but it would be foolish to deny that the structure and focus on this slower section of the book made for it to feel light on action and heavy on frustration. Thankfully, Francis Lawrence was able to handle this well.
I have to credit the movie for managing to make Peeta increasingly sympathetic. It would have been very easy to let Peeta appear like he was the villain. Sure, people would rally against that, but it’s his speeches and adamant refuting of the rebellion that could have driven people away. Even further, when Peeta is finally returned to the rebellion we see just how drastically he has changed. Every aspect of his transformation was upsetting. Through the Capitol broadcasts we saw Peeta slowly looking more and more tired. He looked drained and sallow. But the make up in the Capitol did it’s job of making him still look somewhat presentable. It isn’t until we see him in the flesh that you immediately understand that something is wrong. It breaks your heart to see how skinny and battered he looks. Thus making his reaction to seeing Katniss and the brutality of their encounter with everyone in the room was all the more heartbreaking. It was very well done.
One of the things I’ve come to love on the hunger games are the beautiful scores that accompany the films. I was haunted by Katniss’ rendition of The Hanging Tree. Her voice floated in that raw way that made you feel all the sorry that came with the song. It wasn’t a song of hope, but of desire. A longing to escape and I dare you to leave the theatre not thinking of that song in respect to the revolution. It wasn’t just that song though. Music was well used to effectively elicit feelings at just the right moment, only to be starkly taken away leaving you with a feeling of loss.
Mockingjay unlike its predecessors has strayed the most from the source material though thankfully not far. For one, Katniss’ prep team is nowhere to be found, instead replaced by Effie. The reasons are clear why this would be done, but it is a noticeable difference considering Effie in the books went through her own off screen ordeal in the Capitol. There were other additional changes that stood out as being distinct differences, but nothing major. The changes benefited the story as they drove home the struggles that the rebellion was facing and the torment Snow was exerting on Finnick and more importantly Katniss, the Mockingjay.
Which brings me to Finnick and Betee. Both played roles in the film, but they were massively downsized from their roles in the book. Here we got to see that Beetee was doing some of his mastermind work. It was fun, but we didn’t see how important he was other than breaking through the airwaves he helped secure. Then Finnick was even further dropped into the background which is unfortunate. Finnick, the boy who was so confident before, he was pushed to the background every so often showing his ticks. We never got a good look of how truely devastated he was. Thus his reunion with Annie at the end was nice, but not quite as impactful as it could have been.
Mockingjay Part 1 was a very solid movie, delivering a pretty faithful adaptation of the first portion of the book. This installment delivered on many of the emotional aspects as we saw how the rebellion and revolution was playing out. It was a strong installment, but it certainly felt lacking in many ways because you are left longing for more story. It was as though to two major threads were addressed, but only one concluded somewhat. Mockingjay will leave you happy with the experience, but longing.
Check out the Mockingjay Part 1 gallery.
What did you think of the movie?