Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Review: The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1

(2014) Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson

I shall begin by hoping everyone is up to speed with what has happened in the previous 2 films and books, it would take me a very long time to explain the story so far at this point so fingers crossed!

After destroying the games and igniting a full scale rebellion Katniss Everdeen has fled to the mysterious district 13 where she hopes to get a chance to lay low, recover and eventually figure out a plan to rescue Peeta from the evil clutches of the Capitol. However before she can do this president Coin of District 13 has plans to mould Katniss into the symbol of the rebellion and film a series of bizarre propaganda videos.

It is evident right from the outset of Mockingjay that The Hunger Games have taken a very dark turn indeed, Katniss awakens in the medical bay and finds fellow contestant Finnick, a usually cock-sure and chirpy individual reduced to a sombre zombie-like version of his former self. This is a recurring theme through the film as Katniss discovers the rebellion she has unintentionally started has had a profound and devastating affect on thousands of lives. To have seen Jennifer Lawrence portray a character of such strength in the previous 2 films, only to be reduced to an unsure and emotionally unstable state in this 3rd instalment is testament to her incredible acting ability. She is able to portray so many negative emotions from fear: loss: hatred and heartbreak in a fully believable and gut wrenching way.

The supporting cast range from good to poor in terms of acting. Liam Hemsworth still only manages to portray one emotion as the ever frowning Gale, Woody Harrelson offers great one liners as ever as the 'now sober' Haymitch. Light relief from the grim over tones comes from Elizabeth Banks playing the now not-so glamorous Effie Trinket, having being stripped of her fashionable clothes and forced to live among 'savages' she plays the diva with a good heart role perfectly. Effie did not appear in District 13 in the book but having her presence in the film was a great addiction, a choice I was happy the director because of the serious lack of her character development in the final book. I cannot go with mentioning 2 great performances by the late Richard Seymour Hoffman,  doing another great job as the defected baddie Plutarch and Natalie Dormer as the defected journalist Cressida. Having not been familiar with Dormer's work in the Game of Thrones series I was pleasantly surprised by her chirpy and sassy portrayal of her character. Also best on screen haircut of the year! (You'll see!)

I was aware that the final book was quite dark in comparison to the previous 2 but the film did and even better job of portraying a sense of desperation, loss and tension felt across all districts. The scene in which Katniss revisits her home District was heart in mouth stuff. After being exposed to such a horror and cruelty is was crystal clear why she needed to step up and lead the charge against President Snow and the Capitol. Coming in at just over 2 hours I felt the length was spot on, the 3rd book was a very slow slog to the final action packed pages but the film had a good sense of pacing. An early to mid-time action sequence following a visit to District 8 and a simply horrific bombing of hospital led to one of the most disturbing an powerful moments iv seen on screen this year. Such was the raw portrayal of murder, bombing and war crimes that I was really surprised by the 12A certificate, a few teeny boppers may have lost sleep last night.
I was really impressed with how every action by the Capitol sparked a reaction from District 13, the book did a terribly slow job of dragging the preparations out to fill pages but the film moved nicely along without leaving any important details unturned. The director has thought very carefully about catering to hardcore fans of the book but without alienating and boring newcomers or 'film only' fans.
I still feel however that the audience who has read the book has a lot more to take away from this rather than those that haven't. Certain chapters and the way things were described (particular the roses left in the crater scene) were almost picture perfect to what i would have imagined in the book.

The Verdict

The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 was a great film, it stayed true to the novels whilst throwing in much needed tweaks and a few areas of comic relief. Acting was of a exceptional standard from lead Jennifer Lawrence even though she may have been let down by other sub character performances.
This is indeed an extremely dark addition to the series and the level of violence and portrayal of genocide was very surprising, however it added a much needed sense of vulnerability  and direct threat to the main protagonists. A lot of people are calling this film a 'filler movie' or '2 hours of preparation' they are wrong. What we have here is a brilliantly crafted, matured and down right gripping addition to the saga. Roll on the final battle next November and of course......'May the odds be ever in your favour'.


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