Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 – 2014

Director Francis Lawrence
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Natalie Dormer, Sam Clafin, Jena Malone
Screenplay by Danny Strong, Peter Craig based on the book by Suzanne Collins

At this point we’ve all become accepting of the process of dragging out books into multiple movies. Outside of the last Harry Potter film, they’ve all been pretty weak. The Suzanne Collins dystopian trilogy ran its course after about half of a book for me. By the time I read the third book, the back and forth agonizing of her on again off again heroine Katniss (Lawrence) became unbearable. Fortunately, the movies have taken the dregs and made them into something watchable. The second film fell down a tick if only because it tread the same ground as the first, with a ton of lamenting over who she thinks she loves.

As we start the 3rd movie, which is the first of two Mockingjay movies, she’s done the switcheroo one more time. In the truest fashion of dragging it out, she once more loves the guy who is not with her. In a brilliant move, we get Julianne Moore at her most severe playing the President of the free people in Colony 13. She does a great job making the revolution feel more like a chore than a choice. Then we get some assistance from Haymitch, Effie and Plutarch (Harrelson, Banks and Hoffman) whenever the plot needs to move forward a tick. Will she or won’t she support the cause? Will they meet her demands? When she joins the revolution, what will she wear? When she gets the right outfit on, will she look like a natural rebel leader? Will she fall in love with Gale (Hemsworth) or will she find the Peeta (Hutcherson), for whom she longs?

So many aspects of this story have such ridiculous elements, it is hard to take any of it seriously. The more faux Storm troopers we see ineffectually holding back unarmed folks, the more I realize that this revolution is silly for all the machinations and wish to get the propaganda just right. Still, Lawrence is able to keep things crisp and less boring than the books.

So we get to see the good guys strike, the bad guys strike back and a bunch of white roses throw Katniss into a useless emotional tizzy. Why would a woman write her woman hero to be such an emotional wreck. Lawrence was able to fight off the silly portrayals to this point. This time, she has to spend much of her time underground, fussing and fighting just enough to take down something that looks an awful lot like the Quinjet from Marvel’s The Avengers.

The movie cuts out just after two hours, and we are left with the not so surprising reunion with Peeta (What? He was brainwashed? Do tell!). We are left with a prelude for what Katniss has to agonize over now, hoping it does not last too much longer into the future. They sure drag it out in the book.

Not enough of a story for one movie, it seems to satisfy the throngs of people who accounted for 3/4 of a billion in receipts. If the future of cinema has to be like this, they might as well go back to Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. At least they did not pretend to be anything more than a lead on for the next episode.

(*** out of *****)

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