The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014) Movie Review
Peter Craig and Danny Strong
Because there are such things as standards of decency, this review will only feature, at maximum, 3 references to any hacking of nude pictures and posting them on the internet. It’s such a shameful thing that someone would violate anyone’s privacy like that and then make the pictures so difficult find despite multiple searches and solely for research purposes
Okay, 4 references at most.
Mockingjay Part 1 is, by far, the best Hunger Games movie to be released this year. Standing on its own, it’s the least sweeping of Lionsgate’s YA cash cow for more reasons than it’s the bridge movie right before the finale. You know in advance the final movie’s coming out around this time next year, yet you can’t help but feel a little dissatisfied.
Not that that’ll stop anyone from seeing it, as by the time I finish typing out this sentence it will have grossed another quadrillion dollars.
It retrospect, it would actually serve as a more “whole” experience if you just wait and watch Part 1 right before Part 2 rolls out next November, that way you’ll experience something resembling cohesion---
You’re at the theater already, aren’t you? Never mind then…
Through the magic of modern movie-making Mockingjay Part 1 opens where Catching Fire ended.
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, commanding AF) is having nightmares over what happened in the final 20 minutes of the previous movie. Her baker friend/fake lover Peeta (Josh Hutcherson, short AF), along with other tributes, have been captured by the evil Capitol after combining forces so Katniss could win the Quarter Quell.
Katniss and the rest of the remaining cast have been taken to District 13. Those who haven’t been captured include her mom, her sister, and Gale (Liam Hemsworth, Chris Hemsworth‘s brother AF), the guy who spends most of the movie making googly eyes and pining for Katniss. D13 had been the military district and had been previously thought destroyed but it really wasn’t destroyed and have spent years amassing enough weaponry to launch an attack against the Capitol.
D13 is led by President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore, not ginger AF) alongside the shifty former Gamemaster Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
Lastly, there’s Haymitch (Woody Harrelson, high AF), who helped engineer Katniss’ escape from a movie ago. He’s drying out from being a drunk in the previous 2 films, and it’s not suiting him well.
The Capitol is very near a breaking point, as Katniss’ defiant antics have gotten the Districts closer than ever to overthrowing their dictators. All they need is to come together, and President Coin and Heavensbee believe that Katniss may be just the person to unite them.
They want Katniss to be the Mockingjay (coincidentally enough, this is also the title of the movie) , the symbol of the revolution. She’s shown she’s got the skills to kill, but also a certain, um, mystique about her that could lead a post-apocalyptic nation to freedom
Katniss is reluctant because she’s just a girl with a bow and arrow who just wanted to save her sister Prim from being gutted.
It’s Prim herself who shows Katniss using pie charts, graphs, and Facebook polls that she could leverage her position as Mockingjay to get what she wants. Namely, to rescue her chaste boy toy Peeta and the other champions. There may just be a silver lining to this little playbook.
Katniss agrees to be the Mockingjay under those conditions.
Coin says no.
Katniss tells them to find themselves another Mockingjay.
Heavensbee says we don’t want to do that thing but we’re running out of time and the passion in which you state your demands show us exactly why we need you to be the Mockingjay.
Coin grudgingly agrees.
Katniss hustles her way home to District 12 and sees it’s completely decimated. She now knows on a deeper level what she’s up against and what will happen if she fails. She also hopes no one has seen The House at the End of the Street.
Back at D13, Katniss is eating a pita for lunch when Peeta appears on Capitol television and renounces the rebellion. D13ers start screaming at the TV and calling Peeta a traitor. Katniss notices that Peeta has bags under his eyes and is almost Sheen-level strung out. The Capitol is obviously forcing him to say this stuff. Peeta is also wearing Tom Cruise lifts.
Oh yeah, and malevolent old President Snow (Donald Sutherland, grizzled AF) has just declared the Mockingjay symbol a sign of treason, and anyone caught having anything to do with it will be tried accordingly, mowed down like a black kid in Ferguson.
Also- get off his lawn.
Also- help him take a selfie with his new iPhone.
Also- make sure he takes his pills.
It’s on now, as Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks, pitch perfect AF) has been recruited to help make the Mockingjay more “presentable” despite the fact that Effie herself now looks like a cancer patient in a Lifetime Movie, possibly called A Trinket of Cancer or Effie-ML airing on Wednesday at 2 pm and co-starring Valerie Bertinelli. Outfit maker Cinna (Lenny Kravitz, selling Woody Harrelson the weed to make him high AF) would have loved to help the girl on fire some more, but he’s dead.
Will Katniss have what it takes to be the Mockingjay? And is even that enough to overthrow the powerful Capitol? What’s it like being Liam Hemsworth knowing that your older brother is now the sexiest man alive? And what’s up with Peeta? Did the Capitol actually succeed in making him shorter?
Keep in mind that none of these questions will be answered by the end of Part 1.
What works with Mockingjay Part 1: Why does the caged Mockingjay…mock?
- Granted, she’s had two movies to play the character, but this is Jennifer Lawrence’s best performance as Katniss. She gets to play more range of emotions than she did before, and nowhere do you not believe that she could single-bow-and-arrow-ly lead a rebellion to victory. The first “Propo” is priceless
- The attack on District 8 is the best action sequence of any of the Hunger Games movies. Director Francis Lawrence stages the biggest set piece ever seen in Panem’s world, yet there’s a delicate intimacy as almost everything is seen through Katniss’ eyes. You wish more of the movie drew you in this way as you spend most of P1 thinking that the very best parts won’t be seen until the next movie.
- Aside from Katniss herself, the best character work comes from Julianne Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman in their handful of scenes together, though I may be slightly biased as Boogie Nights is one of my favorite films of all time. Moore and Hoffman fill out more characterization than I remember from the novels as they show depth that probably wasn’t there on the page.
What Doesn’t Work With Mockingjay Part 1
- Mockingjay Part 1 doesn’t really stand on its own as a movie. Take, for example, those Harry Potter films. Each of those, though part of a bigger narrative, functioned as its own story. They each had a beginning, a middle, and an end. MJ1 has a beginning, and some of a middle before cutting itself off to remind you that the real movie is coming next year. For most of its running time MJ1 plays like a 2 hour trailer
- A sequence involving airlock doors, a voice-over countdown, wayward kitty (of course), and a booming propulsive score provides the falsest suspense of any of the HG movies. It’s already been established that almost nothing of any consequence will happen during MJ1, so it’s the equivalent of someone deciding between a red or blue wire.
Mockingjay Part 1 is the least engaging of the Hunger Games movies, but that doesn’t really matter does it? All that matters is that they stick the landing in 2015. The viewers wouldn’t feel so cheated except it seems like the filmmakers themselves didn’t really care about Part 1 either.