********* 6 out of 10 *********
Director: Francis Lawrence
Actors: Jennifer Lawrence, Julianne Moore, Josh Hutcherson, Philip Seymour Hoffman
The Hunger Games series has so far been responsible for a good many things in Hollywood. It has kept the YA – young adult – drive alive in cinema. It has brought wider attention to the extremely talented Jennifer Lawrence. It has provided strong box-office collections which not only benefits the studio but the exhibitors as well, and the industry as a whole. And it has been loved by the audience so far. So this franchise does not deserve to go out with a whimper. Unfortunately, that may very well be the case if The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is the beginning of the end.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 takes the story of the rebellion forward. After Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) was rescued from the Games towards the end of the previous movie, she is taken to District 13 which was thought to have been uninhabited. There she meets President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), the leader of the rebel group, who wants to make Katniss the face of the rebellion campaign on the advice of Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman). But Katniss has her own demons to face, and the fact that Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is in the hands of the Capitol is the biggest one. Katniss has to find her strength again to survive and stroke the fires of the rebellion spreading across the Districts before they are crushed.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is the first of two parts based on the final book in author Suzanne Collins’ trilogy. The decision to break the movie into two parts can be justified from a financial angle, but from a purely cinematic viewpoint, it makes little sense. The final book of the trilogy isn’t voluminous, isn’t any more extravagant in its narrative than the previous two books, and so in other words, does not have enough material to offer for two movies. In such a case, if the filmmakers still decide to proceed with the two-movie scenario, it would have been better to add more stuff of their own to expand the movie universe. That isn’t done here. And so what we are left with is a rather slow moving narrative which lacks the intensity and the adrenaline rush that was the hallmark of the first two movies.
In the previous movie The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, director Francis Lawrence had done an amazing job in getting the dark mood of the film right, and infusing the high intensity action to keep us entertained. With The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 things are way too sombre, too grim, too dark, that even a brief period of sunlight would warm the heart. The colour palette reflects the depressed and difficult state that Katniss finds herself in the movie, but I felt that it was overdone, which made the movie devoid of the entertainment that we seek in the cinema halls. While a rebellion of this sort is not going to be cheery and filled with bright colours, there has to be a difference between watching a movie and a war documentary. That difference was missing here.
While I found the colours to be lacking in the movie, there was nothing lacking in Jennifer Lawrence’s performance. It is yet another powerful display by this young actress, and whether for good or for bad, she can cut across the big screen and make you feel her pain. The moments of hopelessness are followed by moments of defiance, and in either of them, Jennifer Lawrence strikes a chord with the audience. Katniss Everdeen is bound to be a character talked for long in cinema even when the series comes to a closure next year, and much of that would be on account of Jennifer Lawrence’s impeccable portrayal of this brave survivor.
Julianne Moore is the addition to the franchise who leaves a strong impression as the leader of the rebel group. While her character will expand further in the final movie, Moore gives her character a very strong touch in this movie — a no-nonsense leader who is focused on her drive to defeat the Capitol. Another veteran actor who brings a lot of life to this movie is the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. Such an effortless actor, such a delight to watch on the screen, and such a shame that a man of his talent has been robbed from us. Josh Hutcherson has a briefer role in this movie though expect more in the next one, but nonetheless, he is another talented fellow who can easily captivate you and move you. Liam Hemsworth is a bit rigid as Gale this time, while on the other hand, Sam Claflin makes his character of Finnick look all the more lovable. Donald Sutherland remains creepy and sinister as President Snow, a nemesis worthy of such a large scale movie series. Elizabeth Banks sans her colourful attires still manages to put on a sparkling performance, while Woody Harrelson has to do with only a few scenes this time.
The final movie of the franchise, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, will release a year later. Being the last instalment, undoubtedly it will attract a lot of attention. What I do hope though is that director Francis Lawrence gives the series a farewell it deserves. The dark and brooding look would definitely be there along with a lot of action as the rebellion grows bigger. But it is the balance between these things which remains important, which they need to get right. Even if it comes at the cost of straying away from the original story source. Let it end on a high, let it be a series worth seeing again, let it be something worth remembering. Let it be much better and grander than this one!