The Hunger Games: Mockingjay pt1 (12A)

Directed by Francis Lawrence
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Julianne Moore, Sam Claflin, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Dormer, Woody Harrellson, Elizabeth Banks

As a big fan of the franchise and a reader of all the books, this was always going to be the toughest film to sell. Mockingjay is very different to the first 2 books, and has the mopiest and most annoying Katniss. The structure of events leading to the arena climax that we saw in films 1 and 2 are absent, and the decision to split it into 2 films always looked a strange decision as it leaves us with a film without a big action climax. However, for me, I am so invested in this world and its characters, I very much enjoyed seeing the political scheming of President Coin(the fab Julianne Moore) and Katniss emerging as the Mockingjay - with thankfully not quite as much whining as in the book!
As always, a huge reason of the film's success is Jennifer Lawrence. It is hard to imagine anyone else would have kept us as engrossed. Liam Hemsworth remains a charisma vacuum, despite having a bit more to do. Meanwhile Josh Hutcherson as Peeta fares better as we see his declining mental health as he becomes Snow's puppet. His reappearance as Katniss' would-be assassin at the film's climax, all CGI-skin and bones and haunted eyes is pretty effective. Shame about the still fake looking blond hair! More successful are the additions of Julianne Moore and Natalie Dormer as President Coin and video propo directed Cressida. Love the girl power!
As an adaptation, I think they did a very good job of shortening the overlong District 13 routine drudgery that made the book a tough read at first. Also adding Effie to the action is a good move, as she is a great character and I'm glad to see her. The book is all first person from Katniss' point of view, so adding some scenes from the Capital and the revolting districts was a good idea. Making the rescue of Peeta and the other victors the action climax was probably necessary for the structure of the film. It happens offscreen in the book, but it's a Zero Dark Thirty SEAL rescue here.
Of course, as part 1 of a two-part adaptation, there were always going to be accusations of cashing in and lack of resolution, but IMO this was a great adaptation of a tricky novel. The quality of the world building in the previous films and the fantastic cast, especially JLaw, has earned it enough leeway that the conclusion had me already eager for the conclusion to the series next year. I'm keen to see if they can rescue the 'problematic' to say the least, ending and the rather grisly deaths!! 8/10

November 2014

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