As I have stated before, I’m not actually a dedicated fan of Hunger Games series and I wasn’t waiting for this movie with such longing. But Catching Fire was more than good enough so I still am looking forward for Mockingjay, to see whether or not Francis Lawrence still got the magic that managed to turn Catching Fire into a movie that surpass the book. My bet was on the negative side, especially because they just have to cut Mockingjay into two parts. I can’t blame them for wanting to milk a franchise this big as much as they can, but it doesn’t change the fact that there’s just isn’t enough in the book to be split into two different movies. However, I was pleased to say that the Lawrences still got it.
After being saved from the 75th Hunger Games, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) wake up at what’s left of District 13: a military base waiting for the right chance for a coup d’etat against the Capitol, led by President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore). The rebels got everyone. They got Finnick (Sam Claflin), Prim (Willow Shields), Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), and even Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks). And they all want Katniss to be their Mockingjay, an offer that she was glad to refuse.
It wasn’t until she found out that Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is alive underneath Capitol’s grip that Katniss finally decided to join the fight, in exchange of rescue mission and full pardon for Peeta and the other tributes.
Considering Mockingjay part 1 only tell half of the final story from the Hunger Games trilogy, it’s only normal that the story fell short and is not as satisfying as Catching Fire. It’s just a build up to the final half of the saga afterall, a mere filler to piqued your curiosity and keep your interest. In that aspect, at least, Mockingjay part 1 does it’s job well. It is well made and quite developed for a filler, and it does help untangling the crammed mess that is the book version of Mockingjay. It’s far more depressing than both Catching Fire and Hunger Games, and for that I like this movie. However, there were moments when it just can’t hide the fact that the story can only be expanded for so much and some scenes felt overly long.
I still like Mockingjay part 1, though. It is nice to get out of the arena for once and to see other parts of Panem aside from Capitol and District 11, to see other citizens that would later play a part in the rebellion. And as a communication student, I love all the subtle political feud in this movie and the way they used propaganda as a weapon. Artillery and will can only take you so far – you need a Mockingjay, a face and a voice to unite the people and present the cause as something right that is worth throwing your life away for. Mockingjay also plays out the star crossed lover tale of Katniss and Peeta very nicely, putting them as each side’s Mockingjay and pit them against each other. They barely interacted in this movie and yet it only strengthen their chemistry and you can’t help but to root for them. This time, Katniss convinced everyone that she does love Peeta – and she doesn’t even have to try.
But there’s a cost for putting Katniss as the Mockingjay. She is the main focus of the story and as the movie goes, we get to follow Katniss’s footstep as she sees the damage that Capitol has done, as she experienced the waste of the war first hand. Considering that Catching Fire managed to breathe some life into characters that are not Katniss and Peeta, I found this to be such a shame. Yes, Gale got a much deserved character development and I can finally sympathize with him a bit for his confession that Katniss only ever pay attention to him whenever he’s in pain. But all the other characters are being diminished to extra – aside from Plutarch. And even him felt like he’s only there to soften Coin up – whom by the way also felt a bit underdeveloped. She’s cold, she’s dominating, she’s firm, she appear to be a good leader…and that’s it. She’s just a leader figure and nothing more. I guess I just doesn’t like the fact that Mockingjay part 1 paid too much attention to the love triangle between Gale-Katniss-Peeta because there’s so much more to explore. At the very least, you can show us a bit of family love between Katniss and Prim and their mother? Or I don’t know, some more mentor-mentee relationship between Katniss and Haymitch? A bit backstory about Finnick and Annie? Although the scenes of other districts rebelling against Capitol kinda make up for it while still managing to contribute to the story instead of being scene filler.
The casts also make up for the story, luckily. I really really love Jennifer Lawrence in this movie. She and Katniss really moved me and I understand why the people of Panem would follow her and got inspired by her to keep the flame of resistance ablaze. And as I said earlier, her devotion for Peeta was heartbreaking and it is really nice to see the tables got turned, to see Katniss desperately trying to get Peeta instead of the opposite. Also finally I sorta kinda get why she would string Gale up – she’s trapped in a game of death once again but she doesn’t have Peeta to hold her hands through it, so it’s only normal that she turn to the other person that she can lean on which just so happened to be Gale. Selfish, yes, but it’s a very humane thing to do. And Liam Hemsworth finally showed some emotions aside from anger and frustration, which is good. But Josh Hutcherson really took the cake because despite the small portions, he just stole my heart and broke it to pieces and dammit, his appearances in the last few scenes is just something that would be etched in your mind for a very long time.
As for the rest of the casts, well, they doesn’t really got the chance to shine. That’s not to say that their performance wasn’t on par, becayse they are. I just feel like it’s a waste because they don’t get to show more range. Juliane Moore was intimidating and yet charming as President Coin, and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Plutarch know just how to manipulate people while still managed to being sympathetic and lovable. Harrelson barely got any screen time but is still as grumpy as ever, and Banks is still chirpy in the times that she got to shine with some sass to boot. Jeffrey Wright is the typical tech guy, and Willow Shields is still adorable while being mature as Prim. Claflin’s Finnick is even more broken that he already was, but it’s understandable given the development of his story – he still managed to turn on his charm at times though and he proved to be a fitting companion for Katniss because they’ve been through the same thing. Not to forget that Donald Sutherland’s President Snow is as disgustingly evil as usual. Also, Natalie Dormer’s Cressida is such a scene stealer because damn she looks so fine and strong and sassy at the same time. I’d be glad to admit that she and Finnick were a nice gift for my sore eyes.
All in all, Mockingjay part 1 was better than what I expected. It lay out the foundation for all the climaxes in part 2 later on. And while Mockingjay part 1 lack in actions, it does play with the emotions very well thanks to Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson. The scene where they finally meet is just painfully emotional it will left you with a scar. Last but not least, Mockingjay Part 1 keep up with the tradition of being better than the book because I don’t remember enjoying the book this much.
Director: Francis Lawrence. Writers: Peter Craig & Danny Strong. Released on: November 19 2014. Casts: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Donald Sutherland.