Jun 29, 2015

[Movies] The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (2014)

When I first started reading The Hunger Games trilogy of novels, I was rather fascinated by the setting behind it and was curious as to where this story was going to go. But over time, I came to realize one major side note - the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, is a rather horrible person. To be fair, she's a traumatized young woman shaped by rather horrible events and made to do terrible things. But still, one can't ignore how she's not a happy person.

Now for the movies we have The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 as the first half of the movie adaptation of the big finale of the story of the original book trilogy. And as horrible as that last sentence was, it generally captures my disdain for entertainment moments like this when the final book in a series has to be split into multiple movies.

When it came to the book, I have to admit this part of the story felt especially dark. And the movie certainly did its best to be generally true to that aspect of the story as well. And whether this meant for a good entertainment experience in the end is a little hard to say.

Synopsis: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 is a 2014 science fiction adventure movie directed by Francis Lawrence. The screenplay was written by Danny Strong and Peter Craig based on the Suzanne Collins novel of the same name.

After the events of Catching Fire, we find Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) struggling to deal with the horrors of her experiences during the Quarter Quell and the fact that they had left Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and some of the other Victors behind. And while she has been reunited with her mother (Paula Malcomson) and her sister, Prim (Willow Shields) in the secret underground facility that is District 13,  Katniss' home of District 12 and most of its residents are now dead after an attack by the Capitol. Now all she has is her family and her longtime friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth).

President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) reaches out to Katniss to become the Mockingjay, sort of a political symbol that they can use in their propaganda materials geared towards inspiring the other Districts to join the rebellion. And while Katniss is initially reluctant to help, in time they manage to win her over. However she's not very good with delivering scripted lines - what she is god at is speaking from the heart. And perhaps this may be the key to getting the other districts to join them in their fight against the Capitol.

The movie has Katnisss once again in her ultra traumatized mode - something we also saw in the first part of Catching Fire and as was also covered in the books in a similar fashion. Credit has to go to Jennifer Lawrence for bringing such scenes to life quite vividly, although at the same time it's rather stressful and heavy. It is that way by design, but that doesn't make it any easier to sit through at times.

It was rather sad to see Philip Seymour Hoffman as Gamesmaster Plutarch Heavensbee - after all this movie was among his last projects before his death. It's clear that not all of his scenes were fully filmed and thus we're often left with moments that feel like weak echoes of who he once was. And while it was sufficient to see the movie through, it still feels like this isn't exactly a performance that one can fully credit to him. And sure, it was established he had filmed most of his scenes before his death, it still can't help but feel things weren't quite sufficient. Such a loss.

As is the case with such book-to-multiple-movie adaptations, there's a rather limited amount of "action" that happens in this movie. And I'm not just talking about actual combat sequences and such. I'm talking about moments in the movie when you really feel like things are moving forward. Sure, a lot of stuff happens here and there, but on the whole it still doesn't feel like there's truly significant forward motion. Thus in the end we have the movie only really having done so much and now it's time to cut to commercial as we wait for the next movie.

Random comments - an increasingly skinny Peeta made for some very disturbing scenes in the movie. Good job to the make-up and special effects team who managed to effect that change. It's kind of sad how Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) wasn't much of a character in this movie despite how he was written to be such a strong and charismatic personality. Julianne Moore as the president of District 13 was a little weird - like she wasn't fully committed to her performance or something. Gale is such a wallflower in this movie.

So The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 is a rather weak movie on its won, but it'll probably make more sense when seen together with Part 2 once it comes out. Still, it's a good movie for fans of the series, but perhaps not strong enough for more casual viewers. Thus the movie only gets 3.5 random scenes of rebellion out of a possible 5.

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