‘Mockingjay Part 1’ starts off very interestingly by focusing on Katniss’ PTSD from the two previous Hunger Games competitions and while we saw a glimpse of it at the beginning of ‘Catching Fire’ it was just a brief glimpse, whereas at the start of this film it is given a lot more focus which makes the film seem like it is going in a much more sombre and realistic direction and some of those themes are there throughout the film, but Katniss’ PTSD is quickly forgotten to focus more on other story elements.
The fact that the film opens with Katniss whispering to herself, trying to reassure herself and pull herself together is a brave way to open a blockbuster and led me to believe that this film was going to be a very serious look at the psychological impact the Hunger Games have on everybody. Which would have been extremely fascinating and would have definitely made this film better.
Added to the fact that the film backs off entirely from her PTSD to focus on the more political side of the Capitol vs the Districts, led by the wonderful Julianne Moore is honestly disappointing. While the film does cover some important story elements, structurally it feels disjointed and without resolution, which is the territory nowadays with so many films being split up into parts. The films that correctly divide itself into parts have within each part a beginning, middle and an end, take ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ for an example, the first part was like a heist film with them on the run a lot and with a dramatic conclusion, which while it wasn’t a conclusion in the book, it felt like a satisfying ending for that story arc.
‘Mockingjay Part 1’ doesn’t have the luxury of a conclusive ending and instead we are given an ending where it feels like the editor just said “No one is talking at this moment, cut” and then left it at that. I would like to say that the ending is at least a cliffhanger, like in ‘Catching Fire’, but it isn’t. It just feels poorly executed and it felt like there was no care put into allotting specific arcs for each part of the film.
All the performances are serviceable, obviously Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss is the standout because honestly, she is the only character given a great story, everyone is just a side character in Katniss’ world which has been a problem for all the ‘Hunger Games’ films so far, they tried to give Peeta more screen time in ‘Catching Fire’ and it was refreshing, unfortunately this film is definitely the Katniss show and it’s starting to become tiresome.
Nothing against Lawrence’s performance, it is just that in every film Katniss says “No I’m not doing that” and then something radical happens to change her mind and then she is compliant to almost anything she is asked to do. There is no growth in Katniss as a character, we are given hints and teases at her mental state breaking down but the film hasn’t had the balls to follow through with it, so besides her PTSD, Katniss is the same character throughout all three ‘Hunger Games’ films.
There is very little action in this film which is a shame as Francis Lawrence’s directing really suits action scenes, Lawrence knows how to shoot a great action scene, as showcased in ‘Catching Fire’ however in this film his talents are wasted on boardroom meetings and political propaganda. All these scenes are shot competently and a lot of the times are very beautiful, it’s just that after seeing what he can do with action in ‘Catching Fire’ it felt like a lost opportunity.
The pacing of the film is odd, again the fact that it doesn’t really have a three act structure is probably the cause as the film works its way up to a point of tension, then plummets back down and instead of ending on the tension, or just after, it just carried on chugging along until it stops as it was making a crawl to the finish.
Overall, ‘Mockingjay Part 1’ just feels like whatever important plot points it added throughout its 2 hour runtime could have been condensed into a solid 40 minute chunk of great film instead of stretching it out, bloating and making any shortcomings of the story or characters all the more obvious.