Release date: 20th November 2014

Director: Francis Lawrence

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore

Classification: M (Mature Themes and Violence)

Review by Peter Gray

In splitting up the final book of Suzanne Collins’ ‘Hunger Games’ trilogy into two films – taking its lead from ‘Harry Potter’, ‘Twilight’ and, arguably, ‘The Hobbit’ – ‘Mockinjay Part 1’ suffers a little in that it feels a lot like a prelude to next year’s finale. The film is still likely to please fans of the series, and to the screenwriter’s credit they have succeeded in leaving the audience with a tantalising (ie teasing) cliffhanger ending, but with such a long wait before Part 2 you can’t help but feel the lack of dramatic impact that was far more prominent in the predeceasing films.

After the colour and dramatic flair of the first two films, this particular entry feels quite dull in comparison as it focuses mainly on the reality of District 13, where Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) has been brought following the events of ‘Catching Fire’. The film is largely devoted to the district planning their rebellion under the strict rule of President Coin (Julianne Moore), and as such there’s very little action to speak of, and with this comes the unfortunate absence of Katniss playing the heroine we’ve come to enjoy so much. Lawrence is, as always, a powerful presence on screen but her consistent moping over Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), who has become a hated traitor due to his use as propaganda by President Snow (Donald Sutherland), does little to endear her.

With ‘Mockingjay’ being split into two films it at least allows the talented likes of Moore and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman (who the film is dedicated to) plenty of screentime, which is thankful given how many of the original stars have been sidelined; though you imagine Part 2 will rectify this. Hutcherson barely registers, Woody Harrelson (as Katniss’s mentor Haymitch Abernathy) pops up for a few brief scenes, as does the always energetic Elizabeth Banks as privileged Capitol-chaperone turned District 13 rebel Effie Trinket. Sam Claflin and Jena Malone, who made such a lasting impression in ‘Catching Fire’, are also mostly absent leaving Liam Hemsworth to finally step out into a larger role, although his character lacks the certain charisma needed to co-lead a film.

I understand that the filmmakers here are being faithful to the material but what is achieved in 125 minutes surely seems like something that could be trimmed down for one ‘Mockingjay’ experience. As Snow so chillingly informs Katniss that “It’s the things we love the most that destroy us”, you can’t help but ponder is it just a sample of what is in-store for the next instalment (a whole year away!) or perhaps a slight omen for audience members who love the series so much and fear ‘Mockingjay’ may not deliver. Part 1 certainly isn’t a bad film, it’s just not a complete one as the series seems intent on going out with a bang and, in doing so, has presented us with an extended round of foreplay.

My rating: 3.5/5

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