Most of you are readily familiar with my reviews, for those new to the page bear with me. I love writing reviews. They are a hobby which I want to turn into something more. There are movies of course which I watch and wonder “whats the point?”. In some cases it is because it is so bad no one wants to see it. In some cases it is so obscure even if you wanted to see it you couldn’t. There are some films, which despite my best efforts you will see *coughs* Bayformers *coughs* and Hollywood will take as a check to make another despite anything else. Then there are movies like Mockingjay.
In Hollywoods ever growing quest for a chance to milk a franchise for every drop of its sweet, precious, blood they have taken to a new trend of splitting the finale film into two. Twilight, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and even Marvel is doing it with the Infinity War. Though it has not yet been announced the Divergent finale, Allegiant will probably be split in two. I would be surprised if it wasn’t. Don’t get me started on the Hobbit where we took one movie and made it into three. Of the ones made already, Hobbit included, the first of the films tends to have an issue.
Not saying it is a bad movie, but that they use the film to lay all the groundwork for the epic finale. There’s enough action you are not entirely bored. You are already invested in the characters thus far and for once you do get a deeper amount of time with most of them, but at the same time they lack a certain punch. They lack a real weight because you know they aren’t over. Mockingjay is no different. Oh there’s some action here, but not to the level or intensity we’ve gotten used to. This one tries for more emotional punches and a lot of focus on Katniss after the events of the past two movies.
The story of course is by Suzanne Collins who also adapted it for the screen. There’s two screenplay credits with The Town’s Peter Craig and Danny Strong. Strong was Jonathan on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but has also become a talented writer with Lee Daniels’ The Butler as a written by credit. So with the idea of this particular story needing to be told in mind, these two men are a perfect choice. They do have a keen sense of drama and how to use action to accent it and that is what Mockingjay is – a drama with action added to ease the tension that is building for us until Part II.
Good writing only takes you part of the way with Francis Lawrence taking up the directors chair again after his success on Catching Fire. I also think we get to see his weak points a bit more, much like we did with I Am Legend. We have a very solid film here, with very solid – well – everything. The movie is just lacking something and I think thats a combination of the director, writer, and producers not having a clean and clear idea on how to appropriately split the movie into two. We also have enough tonal shifts and pacing issues in the movie to make it a bit jarring at times. The opening to close shifts just a bit too much and it runs a bit too long in the tooth.
Saving it from these technical, production, and directorial issues are the actors. Ok. Actor. Jennifer Lawrence. 1 Academy award, two nominations and two Golden Globes, with one additional nomination make us think she might be a good actress. This movie reminds us she is. She carries the film and is beautifully doing what she does. Every emotion feels real. Nothing is phoned in or left to chance with her. She just is that good and has no choice but to carry the movie as the rest of the cast, while good, don’t have nearly enough development or screen time. I would have rather seen more of Woody Harrelson’s Haymitch, Elizabeth Banks Effie, and certainly more of Sam Claflin’s Finnick. That boy exudes charisma even when he is pulling it all in. Hutcherson, Hemsworth, Sutherland, Hoffman, Moore, and Tucci all do well enough and really could phone it in if they wanted to. Hutcherson does get a few beats and I enjoyed what I saw there. For my Natalie Dormer fans, yeah there is not enough Cressida, but what we do get is excellent and a huge departure from her Tyrell role. All of the actors do well with what they were given. I can’t say I am a fan of Hemsworth but honestly, I am finding more and more I am not a fan of the Hemsworth clan outside of Thor. All of the power in the film resides with Lawrence. Banks and Harrelson get some shining moments that I wanted so much more of that I was disappointed I didn’t get it.
Not much to talk on the technicals. Nothing new, but at the same time nothing bad either. Actually, I type corrected. The make up effects. Flawless. Not surprised with Ve Neill in charge. Season 1 Face/Off winner Conor McCullagh gets a credit as Key Make Up Artist, with my personal favourite Face/Off contestant Laura Dandridge having a special make up effects artist credit. Glen Hetricks Optic Nerve studios was also involved. We are all better for it. There are a few choice shots were some amazing talent were needed and the effects are subtle going through it so they were worth mention. I know this is a review of Hunger Games, but I have to give credit to Face/Off for actually furthering careers of really talented people.
As I said before, there are movies like Mockingjay. Face it, you are already invested and nothing in my review will stop you from seeing it. Nor should anything in my review stop you from seeing it. You need to for the finale which by all accounts should be filled with enough action and intensity to make you want to cry.
If you haven’t gotten into Hunger Games before, this one is NOT the one to start with. Then again who starts with the 3rd movie out of four?
Otherwise, yeah go see it and be the completionist. It is a solid film but suffers what I now dub The Deathly Hollows curse. Good but not great. Solid, but not quite fun or entertaining. It exists as a filler and placeholder for additional material coming soon to a theatre near you. I did enjoy it, but I wasn’t blown away by any one thing.
So there we go. May the odds be ever in your favor.