The third instalment of the four-part billion dollar franchise, ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1’ is probably the most forgettable film of the franchise. This is largely due to the inevitable decision to split the final novel into two halves in film form, so as to capitalise off of teenage girls’ emotions rather than, y’know, ~deep artistic reasons~. I don’t really know why so many people were shocked by this decision, since it was pretty obvious it was going to happen after how much money Harry Potter and Twilight raked in but, I digress.
I was pretty cynical going into this film as Collins’ final book didn’t cut it for me — it felt like nothing happened and then suddenly you were down to the last ten pages and (spoiler) literally everyone dies within the space of a mili-second and you’re left asking what the fuck just happened. Therefore, artistically and narrative-wise, I felt the decision to split this film in half was just a murder to the potential that Francis Lawrence could’ve done with the original text in one film, but obviously money was to be had here and the infamous Men In Expensive Suits wanted as much of it as they could get.
My cynicisms on this factor of the film were correct — it was far too long winded, there was no clear cut Act 2 or 3, and the script felt a little too generic ‘Hollywood action blockbuster’ for me.
However, whilst I did find my perpetually single self rolling my eyes at every scene of Katniss running to Gale/Peeta, there were some positives to the film. Like, the fact it was actually good, but being ‘good’ after Catching Fire is obviously going to underwhelm.
The length of the film and how little plot there was to fill the spaces allowed for Lawrence to peer into the lives of the characters more than he would have if it had been just one film. It is here where I’m kind of happy it is a two-parter because, unlike most book-to-film adaptations where you never get a clear sense of who these characters are and how they work, this extended time with side-characters like Gale, Prim and Effie makes you appreciate how many facets they have, and how, in spite of the giant landscapes surrounding the characters, they can never be washed out or silenced since they want something, and I mean ‘want’ in the terms of how Shakespeare used it – wanting something they lack in, in this case equality, rather than wanting something aesthetically, for example how I want Suzy Bishop’s whole wardrobe in a poor attempt at making my life feel like a Wes Anderson film.
In terms of directing, I think Francis did a wonderful job since it felt that rather than trying to make the film more exciting and action-packed than it’s supposed to be, he embraced the fact it is a filler film. The lack of plot allowed for time to pick up on micro-elements that would otherwise have just gone unnoticed to the majority of the audience, including Katniss’ wardrobe, the fact Lawrence is leaving shots with unfamiliar characters rather than constantly following the film’s protagonist (e.g. in the meeting room with Coin and Plutarch — we do not know and cannot wholeheartedly trust these characters, so leaving us with them feels like we are being let in on a secret), and the metaphors — particularly those involved with animals like the deer and Prim’s cat Buttercup. At first I thought it was some PETA (or Peeta haha…I hate myself) thing trying to make everyone vegetarians, but then I realised the DEEP MEANING behind it that, like, Katniss shining the torch that Buttercup chased whilst everyone was laughing was a mirroring of what Snow is doing to the Capital and also how he is using Johanna and Peeta and Annie as these metaphorical lights that Katniss and Finnick will never be able to reach and I’ve run out of pretentious stuff to say!
In short, the film feels as though it’s saying “just wait for Part 2,” and whilst I definitely will see Part 2, I’m not sure if I am going to be waiting for it.