Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

As is becoming increasingly common in a cinematic landscape dominated by big-money franchises, splitting a final chapter into two parts should be beneficial for studios and audiences. Film studios can gain twice the amount of money on the back of a blockbuster franchise, whilst audiences get to immersive themselves in their favourite series for even longer. However, the filler-heavy The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 is evidence that fans will ultimately lose out in this transaction.

The third film in the ever-popular series of Suzanne Collins' novel adaptations sees Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) living in District 13 after destroying the Hunger Games forever. Here a rebellion is brewing against President Snow's (Donald Sutherland) dictatorial reign and Katniss becomes the poster girl for this pending revolution. However, she is distracted by her concern for fellow-victor Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) who is being used as a propaganda tool by the totalitarian Capital.

The focus of series now shifts from the Battle Royale style Hunger Games to a tale of political unrest and brooding rebellion. Director Francis Lawrence (who returns from Catching Fire) creates a real sense of build-up here, teasing a grand end to the series in Mockingjay - Part 2 - however, sadly for the case of Part 1 there is a real lack of excitement. Given the focus on building up events here, there is surprisingly little pay-off in this unmemorable addition to the series. With around thirty minutes of necessary dramatic material or impressive set-pieces, Mockingjay - Part 1 brings little to the fold.

This filler-heavy entry instead focuses on the propaganda war between Snow's camp and Julianne Moore's President Coin's rebels. In a contrived turn of events we see one side use Peeta and the other, Katniss, with much time spent showing the creation of the rebel campaign in boardrooms or filming propaganda adverts - with very little of it feeling of any real narrative consequence. When the occasional set-piece appears - for example a raid on a nearby district - the pace quickens and it is easy to get lost in the events as we regain some of the inventive spark that the previous film's showcased. However, these scenes are few and far between - presumably only used as tools to whet our appetite (and pry our wallets) for Part 2.

Of course there are still assets to enjoy in this sequel. Elizabeth Banks' remains the most entertaining thing about the series as joyously high camp chaperone Effie Trinket, whilst Philip Seymour Hoffman and Julianne Moore are welcome additions to The Hunger Games universe. Lawrence remains an engaging screen presence, despite playing far more interesting roles than Katniss. The talented Liam Hemsworth is given slightly more to do here yet still feels relatively underused, and Hutcherson is also reduced to a minor supporting role.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 will undoubtedly delight the series' hardcore fanbase, however, with an emphasis on build-up and little to engage with here Part 1 is a filler-heavy low-point for a previously impressive series.

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