The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1: a worthy follow-up to Catching Fire?

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Not gonna lie, I was a little nervous going into this film for a few reasons. First of all, now that I’ve read all of the books that the films are based on, I can confirm that Mockingjay is my least favorite of the trilogy, which seems to be the general consensus among most readers. I could go on a whole tangent about why it’s something of a letdown, but that would certainly require spoilers, and that’s not my thing. The splitting of Mockingjay into two films was another cause for concern. After all, the third book is roughly the same length as the first two, and I’d say about the same amount of stuff happens—maybe even less. Would a two-parter be justified? My final concern was simple: How the heck was this film going to live up to its spectacular predecessor, Catching Fire?

In my Catching Fire review, I expressed my desire that Mockingjay – Part 1 continue to up the ante—to turn up the heat like the girl on fire herself. But given how the trilogy’s plot unfolds, that’s kind of an unfair request. Mockingjay – Part 1 is definitely not as action-packed or thrilling as its predecessor…but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. In fact, it’s still really, really good.

Synopsis: “When Katniss destroys the games, she goes to District 13 after District 12 is destroyed. She meets President Coin who convinces her to be the symbol of rebellion, while trying to save Peeta from the Capitol.” Borrowed from my favorite movie site, IMDb

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The Good: Is Jennifer Lawrence ever a bad place to start with these reviews? Because, seriously, Jennifer Lawrence. I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again in my Mockingjay – Part 2 review: J-Law is Katniss. She does a wonderful job of bringing the character to life, capturing her fierceness and her vulnerability perfectly. The story is undoubtedly all about Katniss, and Lawrence can shoulder that weight. Nonetheless, there were a few characters that I was pleased to see with some more screen time—especially Elizabeth Banks’ delightful Effie, who actually plays a much more minimal role in the third book, but the film cleverly makes room for her by nudging out a couple of less significant characters. I absolutely love what the films have done with Effie. Here, she’s stripped of her outlandish wigs and caked-on makeup, setting aside her vanity (mostly) to become the kind of driven person that Katniss needs at her side. We also get flashes of Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) in a much more vulnerable state than he’s ever been (though the real test of Hutcherson’s acting chops will be in Part 2), and we get a little more time with Gale (Liam Hemsworth), which is nice (because I feel like his character always gets the shaft). And can we talk about cool Natalie Dromer’s Cressida looks from just freaking sitting there (see below)?? Love that look. We see lots of intense chatting between Gamemaker-turned-rebel Plutarch (R.I.P. Philip Seymour Hoffman) and newly-introduced President Coin (Julianne Moore), which I think is a good way to get to know the latter. Even sweet little Prim (Willow Shields) gets more screen time, and it’s nice to see the sister bonding. Wow. I’ve talked a lot about characters, haven’t I? I’ll try to make the rest of this quick. I mentioned that this film isn’t as action-packed, but given how slow the first half of the book is, I actually feel that Part 1 does a good job keeping the pace up—particularly by showing glimpses of revolts across Panem that set the tone really well. Also, I may know how the book ends, but you don’t have to be a reader to see that this film is clearly setting up for a big ending. That’s pretty exciting.

Favorite Scene: There’s a song that’s fairly important in the book, and it’s carried into the film in the coolest possible way. Just watch the scene with “The Hanging Tree” and try not to get goosebumps.

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The Bad: This is not Catching Fire all over again. It’s actually a film that delves more into the political aspects of Panem and some of Katniss’ emotional turmoil, and many people might not find that as easy to watch let alone enjoy. I don’t know if I’d call Part 1 the calm before the storm, but I can promise you that Part 2 will have much more action…for better or worse. Part 1 could ultimately be considered a set-up film—something that puts all the pieces in place for the big finish. Some might find that frustrating and say that not much happens. Personally, I didn’t feel that way after leaving the theater, but I also knew what I was getting into. Other than that…Well, Katniss cries a lot. Like, a lot. She certainly has every reason to, but after a few times it’s just like, “Okay! We get it! Her life sucks!” And can I just take a second to vent about how frustrating I find the treatment of Gale? Honestly, I blame the books more than I do the films, but each new Katniss-Gale scene begs the question: What purpose does Gale serve other than to be part of an unnecessary love triangle? I think Gale could be a cool character, and I’d really like him to be (and not just because we share a name, mind you), but all of his potential is wasted by making him pine over Katniss. Bummer.

Least Favorite Scene: Instead of a scene, I’m going to lament the treatment of Finnick (Sam Claflin) in this film. He’s a much more minor character than I expected him to be, and I really wish we could’ve seen more of his struggle. There’s even a scene where he reveals a horrific secret, but this pretty much becomes background noise as the focus is directed elsewhere. Finnick deserves better, and I’m hoping he gets that in Part 2.

To Sum It Up: Reaction to this film seems to be pretty mixed, but ultimately, I think it will be a worthy addition to the Hunger Games canon, particularly when connections are made with Part 2. Is it brimming over with action like Catching Fire? No. It’s much more subdued. But with fantastic performances, an intriguing story, an intense setting, lots of promise for an exciting sequel, and just enough action to still leave you satisfied, I’d say it’s worth the ticket price.

My Grade: A-

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38 thoughts on “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1: a worthy follow-up to Catching Fire?

  1. Thank you, thank you!! So glad you basically confirmed all that I thought, and more or less wrote about. I had to take a while to process it after seeing it, but still came back to the same conclusions. I agree with all the points you made, and found new things to think about too. But, like you, I knew what I was going in to see. I wasn’t expecting a straight out action filled movie like the previous films, so that helped immensely.

    • Hey, Steven! Great to know we’re on the same page! When I’m back at a laptop I’ll have to go give your review a looksee (right now I’m using WordPress’s mobile app, which I hate…lol). Did you know what it was going to be like because you read the book or could you just tell from the trailers?

      • I did know, more or less what would happen in the film. I’d read the books something like 3-4 years ago, and could hardly remember anything. I do still wish I’d reread them prior to the other films. Anyway, I’d recently finished it before this film, so it was fresher in my mind. I also could pick a few spots where it’d break and understand the pacing. I was surprised. Guess this is what happens when you breeze through all three in a short amount of time. It definitely prepared me more for the way the film would look and feel.

  2. I haven’t read the books, but I am still hooked on this story. I want to see where it unfolds. I saw this as more of a character piece, making everyone feel much deeper and more three-dimensional (eg: the twist with Finnick). I am sure the finale will be incredible. I am kind of disappointed that it is coming out in the same year as Avengers 2, Star Wars and Jurassic World. Tough competition!

    • I’m glad you liked this one, Luke! Since you haven’t read the book, I’ll be very curious to see your reaction next year…because shit gets real. Lol. God next year is going to be amazing. At least all this stuff is spaced out though. Something awesome for every month. 🙂

    • Thanks, Stephen! Yeah it’s definitely a different vibe from the previous films, but I agree that they made it interesting. The first half of Mockingjay is much more about strategy, I think.

  3. Great review lady! I am so happy to see that you enjoyed it so much!

    I was particularly peeved about the treatment of Finnick, and I understand what they were trying to do with the scene with Finnick’s reveal, but they botched it badly, and it took a lot away from the scene. I was incredibly underwhelmed by this, and have a few issues (especially with some characters that we really need to see more of before the next film and just haven’t). As happy as I was to see Gale get more screen time, they really haven’t spent much time fleshing his character out any more, and I really like him.

    Yep, Mockingjay just didn’t pack the same punch as the other two (I am talking books now), and I know that this was written by a woman and focused a lot on details of outfits and stuff, but Mockingjay got under my skin in the sense that they seemed to forget that they were in the middle of a rebellion, NOT a fashion show. Oh well.

    There were some scenes that were done fantastically in here (The Hanging Tree, District 5, the reunions, etc), so it wasn’t a total loss, it just featured far too much lull for me at the best of times. I like slow burn and drama, but then you really have to go for it dammit.

    • Wow. This was a disappointment for you, huh?! Lol. Maybe we should put a pin in this for next year’s NOOOOvember. 😉

      Well I’m sorry you felt that way about this, but I do see where you’re coming from–particularly on the Finnick front. I do hate that his big moment is glossed over. It’s a big reveal for him, and it’s a shame that it doesn’t have Katniss’ full attention like it does in the book. Same with the Gale stuff–in the books and the movies both, I kind of hate the treatment of his character.

      Hmm. I didn’t really get a fashion show vibe from the book–I was mainly just disappointed by the ending, which I feel is way too damn depressing. Plus, a lot of Katniss’ reactions to things bother me.

      The Hanging Tree scene is pretty perfect in the movie. I also loved how they did Katniss’ speech after the bombing. Part 1 isn’t the best of the three so far, but I just thought there was so much more they did right than wrong. Sorry you didn’t have as much fun with it! 😦

      • Yeah, I was not a particularly large fan.

        The treatment of Gale and Finnick is criminal.

        My other half totally lost it. Just from the film he was over the fashion and the acting and all that. He was super peeved. Hahahahaha.

        Katniss is a character I truly despise. On screen she is fine, but the books? What a selfish bitch. I enjoy the story Collins gave us, but Katniss? Not deserving of any of the respect she is granted, and does not deserve Peeta OR Gale, and is by far one of the most self-centred cretins I have ever read about. I apologise, but WOW.

        That it was, so well done! Yeah, it wasn’t that it was a bad flick, I just feel that there was more that they could have done with it, and it dragged for me. 😦 What a pity. I am looking forward to Part II, cause I think there are some things that are going to be done better in that one than in the book, so hoping for the best!

        • Yeah Katniss can definitely be annoying in the books. Unfortunately, YA female protagonists seem hard to get right a lot, y’know? I hate saying that, but it’s kind of true.

          I think Part II will definitely amp things up, and I’m desperately hoping it’s an improvement over the book–especially when it comes to the deaths, which I feel the book just glosses over sometimes. That annoyed the heck out of me when I was reading…

        • YOU KNOW?! It peeves me endlessly because she is seen as a role model, and she is actually not even worth looking up to for things like that!

          Definitely! So you are on the same page I am in terms of what they need to get right, not just rush over it like the books. It was disappointing how she wrote that, lost all the oomph it should have packed!

  4. Well written review as always!

    I have heard mixed reviews about this film, and have yet to see it myself. I am glad that you seemed to derive a great deal of enjoyment from it.

    • Thanks, friend! I can see how the reactions have been mixed–it’s not the kind of film that will make everyone happy. But I, for one, thought it was a solid adaptation with a lot worth praising. 🙂

  5. Great review, Cara! I saw a comment from you pop up on my review of this but not had a chance to look at it yet…. Sounds like you enjoyed this one quite a bit. 🙂 I did think it was good but, like you, the final book is definitely my least favorite so I’m not as excited about these last two films. And…. I’m trying to multi-task by reading your blog & watching Game Of Thrones at the moment and it’s really hard to concentrate! Lol 🙂

        • It’s actually pretty good! It’s no Game Of Thrones but it’s not bad. 🙂 I clearly like it much more than The Flash as I haven’t been bothered to watch past episode 2 yet – I always choose Gotham instead if I have spare time.

        • Have you gotten to the Penguin’s Umbrella episode yet? For me, that was the best one of the season. It’s kind of a game changer. And give The Flash a chance!! Sweet Barry has some good episodes!! Even if I want to punch Iris in the face half the time… :/

          #whydotheloveinterestsalwayssuck

          #ialsokindofhatebarbaraongotham

        • Yes! I think Penguin’s Umbrella was three episodes ago. Yes, probably the best one so far. 🙂 I must be almost finished? I’ll give The Flash another try. I actually don’t like HIM… He’s a pretty hammy actor! Agree – Barbara is totally annoying on Gotham. Love the Penguin and that his mom is Carol Kane! She’s awesome. I keep wanting her to smack someone with a toaster like in Scrooged.

        • Oooh yeah if Penguin’s Umbrella was a few episodes back then you’re almost caught up! Nice! You don’t like Grant Gustin?! Omg. He’s PRECIOUS. Maybe a little hammy, yeah, but I also think that character is hammy, y’know? Yeah Barbara sucks. But more Carol Kane!! I love when she pops up in an episode!! Giving the Penguin a batshit crazy Eastern European mother was a brilliant call.

  6. I completely agree with your review and I think it’s hard to actually fully assess the impact of this film without its second half.

    • Oh totally–especially if you haven’t read the books. I’d be interested to see if anybody feels differently about Part 1 once Part 2 comes out. Guess we’ll see. Thanks, Abbi!

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