It’s obvious to any onlooker how popular this franchise is – I went to see it on release day and the cinema was near enough full, mostly of people my age, all absorbed by the ever-so-popular young adult genre. I myself was part of this buzz and I guess obsession with the Hunger Games franchise upon release of the books and also the first movie, it died down a little bit with the second and I think it’s just because I’ve grown out of it – these movies are clearly aimed at the younger years of being a teenager.
The first movie was enjoyable, don’t get me wrong – it set the scene for the rest of the franchise, but there were a lot of problems with it; the overdramatic ‘arty’ camera shakes in the arena scenes are a moment that particularly frustrates me and to some extent this cinematographic issue was resolved slightly in Catching Fire but I was really impressed at the cinematography of Mockingjay Part 1. It was a lot slicker and classier than the first two movies – I suppose this could signify the jump from arena action to perhaps a more complex story of revolution.
Mockingjay Part 1 follows the events immediately after Catching Fire – Katniss becomes the face of a revolution against the Capitol, despite the fact Peeta is being held. It was nice to have a break from the whole ‘teenager fights teenager against their will’ concept that the first two Hunger Games movies centred around. Mockingjay feels a bit more grown up, getting into details of revolution and developing the characters emotional complexes in a new way.
I feel that Philip Seymour Hoffman deserves a mention here, delivering a stand out performance – his character, Plutarch Heavensbee contributes subtle irony and satire, light relief from the dark plot. The last film performance from Seymour Hoffman; it’s such a shame that he is no longer with us.
However, there is a huge underlying issue with Mockingjay Part 1 – not much really happens. Rather than feeling fast-paced like it should, the film suffers with becoming quite slow. As somebody who has read all three books, I thought it was a bad decision to split the final book into two parts as Mockingjay was the one book that I though was a little bit boring and that not that much actually happened until the final third or so. Certain sections of the film do feel like they’re trying to drag events out, similar to Deathly Hallows Part 1 of the Harry Potter series; obviously, this was done for commercial reasons and they’ll make an absolute tonne of money in doing so, but the quality of the screenplay and movie as a whole has suffered as a result.
Despite this, Mockingjay Part 1 is still worth a watch, definitely if you have followed the series up until now or are just into the young adult/teen genre. The highlight of the movie for me is a scene where Katniss begins to sing, her songs rings behind other visual events that unfold and then we see the rebels singing the same song in unison – it’s simple, but cleverly done and puts the viewer right into the heart of the rebellion as it feels almost as if you’re watching a live choir.
It’s not the best out of the three movies so far, Catching Fire has a fairly large edge on Mockingjay Part 1 but you can see how each film has responded to criticism for the last. Part 2 looks promising, they’ve fixed all the technical, cinematographic errors of previous films, but the overriding factor is that Part 2 will have a much more intriguing story due to the fact that pretty much everything dramatic that happens in the book seems to have been saved for the conclusion.
I was disappointed, but I still enjoyed it – this franchise was never about being technically brilliant and most people who watch it wouldn’t even notice its technical flaws. The Hunger Games is clearly developing and improving and deserves its place in the industry as one of the most successful series’ of modern day.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is out now.