The third instalment of the Hunger Games film series (out of four) takes up right where the last one left off. Katness Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is coming to grips with being in the previously-thought-pulverized District 13, with her sister Prim (Willow Shields), mother (Paula Malcomson), and fellow quarter-quell Victors Finnick (Sam Claflin) and Beetee (Jeffrey Wright).
Katniss’ role is soon laid out for her by District 13 leader President Coin (Julianne Moore) that she will serve as the symbol for the rebellion of Panem against the Capitol. Katniss is thrust into the limelight once again except this time it’s a campaign with no subtly. She’s the mockingjay to rally the rest of the region to rise up.
With this portion of the trilogy’s final book serving as its own film, much of it is on the creation of the propaganda. President Coin, with Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the rebel leader, have ideas on how to present Katniss to audiences but it’s Heymitch (Woody Harrelson) who steps in to suggest what few seem to realize. It all comes down to authenticity. Katniss must create her own content.
Once again, Jennifer Lawrence is running the show. She’s the obvious star, and she does it with such ease. (Even The Hanging Tree, a song she sings in the film that appears on the score is becoming its own sensation!) However, after two movies, there is room to branch out and place additional focus on some of the supporting characters. Not because we want less Jennifer, but because we want more from everyone else.
There are a wealth of actors in this franchise who aren’t given much screen time. President Snow (Donald Sutherland), who was prime in the trailers leading up to Mockingjay’s release, is limited here. It was a noticeable mark in Catching Fire but it’s especially glaring here.
Effie’s (Elizabeth Banks) character is expanded in her limited screen time. Prim seems poised to take a more central role. Even Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) seem restricted in the amount of on-screen time they have. Julianne Moore’s character President Coin is the only one besides Jennifer given suitable time but she leaves us wanting more.
Shifting the beyond Katniss would have given a wider perspective adding to the tensity and giving a better sense of how dire the situation truly is in Panem. Some of the best shots from the first two films were those momentary glimpses into the other districts. The salute. The troops. The riots. In this one, we hear an uprising is occurring but we never see it.
Granted, part of this lies with the book itself, which didn’t off of Katniss’ point of view, building an air of mystery around what’s happening outside of her periphery. But the additional context would have added so much to a film that starts to buckle under its own limitations.
A common criticism for Mockingjay Part 1 is the lack of action, but it’s one I don’t see as being a strike against. After all, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 was low on action but it stands as my favourite of the series.
Instead, the issue with Mockingjay Part 1 is its inability to rely on itself. This was something I noted for the first two as well, but is more obvious here. Part 1 serves merely as a prequel to the grand finale. And it’s become most apparent that the trend of splitting the final story into two movies has worn out its welcome. On the upside, the final scene does serve as a great cliffhanger!