Immediately after her rescue from The Hunger Games, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself in District 13, and at the heart of a revolution against President Snow and the Capitol.
Since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was split into two films, it has become the norm to split the final chapter in a franchise in half. It worked for Harry Potter – just about – since the book was so dense and there was so much going on, but there are times when The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 suffers from being the establishing first half of a larger story.
Jennifer Lawrence, as usual, is in fantastic, feisty and emotional form as Katniss, and once again she is the heart and soul of the proceedings on screen. Sam Claflin, as Finnick, has been moved further to the fore and, while he foes not have a huge amount to do, he has a great speech toward the end of the film, which reveals a lot of much-needed information. Julianne Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman bring some gravitas to the situation, as the ones calling the shots. Although this is not a showy role for Hoffman, he is always an engaging presence and it is wonderful to see him on screen once more.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is a film designed to set up the final instalment of the series, as such, a lot of time is spent establishing the rebellion, the reasons for it and the dirty tricks being played on both sides. Katniss is still a great character, but she comes off as someone with cult-leader traits as the face of the revolution; songs she sings become battle cries, people all but swoon when they see her and she becomes the target of all force shown against the residents of Panem. As well as this however, it does seem like she is a pawn in a much bigger plan that she is not aware of, which is something we have seen in this franchise before.
The screenplay, by Peter Craig and Danny Strong does get bogged down in detail from time to time, but it’s biggest struggle is keeping the exposition of the final struggle interesting. Francis Lawrence, as before, has coaxed strong performances from his actors, but these get a little lost in the to-ing and fro-ing between Capitol and the Districts.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is a film that deals with the minutiae of a rebellion, and the concessions that have to be made for the greater good. Jennifer Lawrence carries the film ably, but without the Games themselves and without a strong final act, Mockingjay Part 1 feels like a set up, rather than a film in and of itself. Still, the final instalment is bound to be epic.