The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is directed by Francis Lawrence who returns to the franchise for a second time. The screenplay is written by Peter Craig and Danny Strong – Craig has previously worked on The Town (2010) and Strong worked on The Butler (2013). Jennifer Lawrence returns in the lead role of Katniss Everdeen while Julianne Moore is a newcomer to the established cast.
In the third installment of this franchise Katniss Everdeen is recovering from her latest ordeal in the Games. She finds herself in the underground heart of what remains of District 13. Katniss must come to terms with what has happened to District 12 and decide how to respond to the desire of President Coin (Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to use her as a propaganda weapon against the Capitol.
The main strength of this Hunger Games film is that it has found another angle with which to view the battle between the Capitol and the outer districts. The film is essentially about the role of propaganda in conflicts between opposing ideologies. Katniss has been rescued not to act as a soldier but as a means to not only solidify support for revolution but actively encourage disobedience. While it is clear who we should be supporting the rebels of District 13 are not above manipulation and strict control of their population as well. Their longer term goal might be more pure but in the short term a price must be paid for victory.
The film focuses on Katniss and there is surprisingly little room for other characters but when they are used they are utilised to great effect. Effie returns and is a welcome shoulder for Katniss to cry on, Haymitch brings his patented blend of humour and insight and Gale is a little bit dull and grumpy as usual. Donald Sutherland as President Snow excels again and you gotta love the guy. When he does his promotional videos for the Capitol he is an eminently likable and believable guy but when he faces off with Katniss the threat is clear. He might be a little guy but look out for Josh Hutcherson’s acting in the final seconds of the film. It’s committed to say the least.
I don’t have any major negatives about this film. It’s mainly a few little niggles such as the fact that the film doesn’t have a lot going on – its predecessor had numerous little plots working alongside each other wheras the Mockingjay (this part at least) is a lot more contained. This perhaps leads to an inevitable feeling of repetition as the characters visit District 12 on a couple of occasions revisiting the same scene of destruction. Liam Hemsworth albeit not terrible is best when not speaking. As ever in a Hollywood film there’s a bit with a cat that makes the heart sink but that is quickly forgotten.
In summary this film is very watchable and while I think it’s the weakest of the bunch it’s still better than most. In the interest of fairness I have heard some reviewers heap a lot of praise on this film – the one thing I think they had in common is that they have read the books. I haven’t so I don’t know what is being set up. I will probably only be able to judge it properly next year when I understand the full story.