Screened Out – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

By : Stephen Miller
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Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Jeffrey Wright, Lily Rabe

After a couple successful films, The Hunger Games takes the Harry Potter/Twilight approach and stretches out their finale into two parts. Bad choice. Unfortunately, only about 45 minutes of this murky, listless 2-hour flick advances the plot. This feels more like a cash grab.

So far, The Hunger Games has succeeded as a tweener Brave New World. It’s buoyed a beloved book series with smart adaptation and Lawrence’s strong performance. This installment still explores dystopian themes by combining reality show tactics with classical themes of good versus evil. (Think Gladiator meets 1984.) We’re all ready for war. Instead, Part 1 is a slow, halting stumble . Most of this movie is stuck underground, in dark, dusty tunnels. Audiences have a long wait for the next flick – November 2015 – to see if they finally deliver some epic battles.

Of course, this is one of Philip Seymour Hoffman's last performances, but both he and Julianne Moore feel like undeveloped characters.

Of course, this is one of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last performances, but both he and Julianne Moore feel like undeveloped characters.

Update: the future of America looks as grim as those tunnels. Katniss (Lawrence) is shell shocked and grief-stricken after the last Hunger Games, a cruel and sick contest that pits her and several other people in a life-and-death battle for the amusement of the Capital. Fortunately, she was able to grab fellow contestants and escape. In this move, she finally met the rebels working to overthrow the Capital.  Her sloppy escape abandoned her fellow contestant and love interest (Hutcherson) to be tortured and manipulated by the enemy.

Now, the rebels – led by a stoic, uninspiring Moore and a slimy Hoffman – want Katniss to be their spokesperson. Their goal is to encourage others to rise up and fight. Our heroine is reluctant. Grief and shock overwhelm her; she’s seen people tortured and killed, and it’ll only get worse.

Ratings Key

See it now! Buy the DVD! Quote lines at parties!

Definitely worth the price of admission

It’s useful as a distraction

Maybe if someone else pays and you need a nap

Slightly worse than eternal damnation

Mockingjay Part 1 does a really good job setting up the political intrigue as well as the angst of its lead character. However, this movie is dingy – it looks like Blade Runner filmed through a lens of pond scum. It’s sad, because director Francis Lawrence also helmed Catching Fire, in my opinion, his first good film of his career. With Part 1, he slides back to the muddle and confusion that made I am Legend, Constantine, and Water for Elephants cruddy films.

So, what would I say in short about Part 1? I would definitely note that 45 minutes of it are awesome. It just desperately needed editing; it feels like it would’ve been a more driven film if they had kept the constraint of trimming this down and adding it to the final flick. It’s not quite Capital-level torture, but it isn’t the passionate, driven call to arms that it should’ve been.

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