Check out Josh and Violet’s spoiler-free male vs. female perspective reviews of Mockingjay – Part 1, which continues the story of The Hunger Games, following Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) as Panem is on the brink of revolution!
His Movie Review of Mockingjay – Part 1:
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, directed by Francis Lawrence, is estimated to earn approximately $125 million in the U.S. so far according to Variety.com, which they note is about 20% lower than the previous two films. Rotten Tomatoes has the film sitting at a modest 68% on their tomato meter. The film is certainly not seeing quite the success that the previous two have, but it will still be a big box office draw for the next few weeks. But is Mockingjay worth it?
For those unfamiliar with the novels or movies, the story follows Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence) in a post-apocalyptic future, where a new country called “Panem” is lead by the vicious overlord, President Snow (very reminiscent of Stalin or other dictatorships). The country is divided into the Capitol, where the wealthy people live, and the Districts, where the poor people live. These people are working, essentially for the sake of keeping the Capitol and Snow in their comfortable positions, while they are forced to live in dreary conditions. Every year, children “tributes” are sacrificed in a game known as the “Hunger Games”, and Katniss in the last two films has been in both unfortunately–having to fight in them, but also fortunate–survived both times, something surely not expected, especially by President Snow.
The third film, Mockingjay – Part 1 continues from where Catching Fire left off, where we the viewers learn that there has been some infiltration of a rebel group into the Capitol, and Katniss learns this after she is extracted from the second games. Katniss is immediately overwhelmed by what is happening, but Plutarch, one of the Capitol’s defectors, along with President Coin are looking to blow this rebellion wide open, and want to enlist the help of Katniss to ignite the fire.
The bulk of this film focuses on using Katniss as a propaganda piece, to help sway public opinion in the Districts, and hopefully eventually in the Capitol, to the rebels’ cause. As might be expected, this film is setting up for the big finale next year, when Mockingjay – Part 2 comes out, and this rebellion goes full scale war, but does this film ignite that fire in us, the viewers?
For me, the answer is a definitive no. I was lukewarm in my excitement to see this film, and there is a very specific reason for that. That reason? The source material. I really enjoyed The Hunger Games as well as Catching Fire. I also love underdog stories, post-apocalyptic stories, and stories centered on revolutions, but I was very disappointed in the third novel Mockingjay.
Unfortunately for this film, I feel the worst part of the third book was the first half of it. Suzanne Collins did not provide a compelling enough story to keep my interest in the third book, and unfortunately this translated directly to the film. In the film ,the pacing seemed slow, drawn out, and did not really draw any sense of emotions out of me.
Also, what made the story so compelling in the first place was the personal relationship readers/viewers felt they have with Katniss, a girl who just wanted to save her sister from the Hunger Games. This film and book deliberately move away from that story I think, in order to tell a much grander, large scale story, but because this grander story just isn’t that interesting, the whole thing just feels a bit mediocre. I walked away from this movie asking myself, “What actually happened in this movie?” And unfortunately there wasn’t a whole lot I could answer.
I should say that despite the story falling flat, I think the acting was done very well. Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland all did the best with what they had to work with. Given this cast, it is disappointing how this film turned out.
Special effects in the film were great, but this should be expected given the budget for the film certainly has to have increased from the past two films.
Now the second half of the book does get a lot more interesting, when the war actually begins to take off, but I was disappointed with the ending of the trilogy, so we will have to see how the next film handles it. Hopefully the second half, Josh Hutcherson is able to portray Peeta’s condition in a convincing way, as that is one of the best parts of the second half of the book. So for now I will be looking forward to the next movie, and try not to let my view of this film influence my feelings on the next.
As for rating this film, I would give it a 5.5 out of 10. I spent most of the movie hoping for some amazing scene that I knew would not be coming, having read the books. The story is just not there in this book, which is a huge disappointment since it should be something I thoroughly enjoy. Put this story in the right hands, and it should be so much more than it is. Stories like these are why movies like Star Wars, Equilibrium, and V for Vendetta are so good, so it strikes me that Mockingjay couldn’t hit the mark.
Her Movie Review of Mockingjay – Part 1:
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, directed by Francis Lawrence, is the third of four movies based on the young adult best-selling The Hunger Games trilogy of novels by Suzanne Collins. Following in the footsteps of the Harry Potter and Twilight series, the studio decided to split up the final book into two movies, so this movie only encompassed the first half of the Mockingjay novel. Francis Lawrence directed the previous installment in the franchise, Catching Fire, and he has also already directed the next film, Mockingjay – Part 2, though a different director, Gary Ross, directed the first film. The stars from the first two films return to their previous roles for Mockingjay – Part 1, including Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, while a couple of new faces join the already star-studded cast: Julianne Moore and Natalie Dormer.
Mockingjay – Part 1 picks up not long after the previous movie, Catching Fire, left off. The rebels had rescued Katniss from the arena of the 75th Hunger Games after she shot an arrow into the arena wall, electrifying it, and thereby destroying the arena. We learn that in response, the Capitol destroyed District 12, though some people managed to get out, including Katniss’s family, with the help of Gale. Fellow victors Finnick and Beetee were also rescued from the arena, but Peeta was captured by the Capitol. It turns out that the rebels, including the Head Gamemaker, Plutarch Heavensbee, had planned all along to break the victors out of the arena, with the main goal of using Katniss as their Mockingjay, the face of the rebellion. However, when Katniss is brought to the previously thought to be gone District 13, whose inhabitants have been living underground, she is traumatized from what she’s been through, and not really interested in being the Mockingjay. She’s more concerned about the fact that Peeta was left behind, and when she sees him on Capitol TV, she knows they must be torturing him. Eventually, she agrees to be the rebels’ Mockingjay, and helps to incite the other Districts to rebel against the evil Capitol.
As I often do when a movie is based on a book, I read the source material shortly before seeing the movie. Actually, I’ve pretty much been living in Hunger Games-land for all of November, re-reading one novel of the trilogy each week — even though I’ve already read the trilogy three times before. I also re-watched the first two films a couple weeks ago. Being that I finished re-reading Mockingjay the day before I saw the movie, the book was quite fresh in my mind.
I will preface by saying that the final book is my least favorite of the series, maybe in part because we only see things through Katniss’s first person perspective, so we miss out on seeing a lot of important events, only getting second hand details sometimes, often glossed over. This wasn’t as much of a problem in the first two books, as the main storyline that we are concerned about is what is actually happening from Katniss’s point of view. However, in the Mockingjay novel, there are things going on that extend far beyond Katniss’s immediate vicinity. This is where the movie Mockingjay – Part 1 was able to fill in those gaps, and take things a step further, showing us things that we didn’t see in the books, things that Katniss could not have known about.
Having recently re-watched The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and re-read Catching Fire, I noticed a lot of things missing from the movie that I felt should have been there. Here, with Mockingjay – Part 1, I don’t really have that complaint, because the book has been split up into two movies, so they had a lot more time to cover everything, and even add extra scenes that were not in the book. Of course, there were a couple of small things left out or changed, but nothing really that major that I was upset about. They did substitute a certain character for Katniss’s prep team that the movie audience is more familiar with, but I can understand that, considering that her prep team didn’t play a very significant role in the previous movies. One thing I didn’t like was how it felt like they made President Alma Coin a more sympathetic character than she was in the books, which was odd, and makes me question how the movie ultimately plans to play out her story.
Nevertheless, despite the liberties that the movie took in adding the new scenes, I still felt like there wasn’t that much going on, and that for the most part, the pacing was very slow. It was all build up, because this was only Part 1. As a result of merely being a Part 1, it lacks the ability to be a good stand alone movie. As I mentioned earlier, the third book is my least favorite of the series, so initially I wasn’t very excited about this movie, especially knowing that it was only the first half of the novel. However, upon seeing the trailers, I thought maybe I was wrong, and that it could be a good, exciting movie. But it turns out my first instinct was right. I walked out of the movie feeling underwhelmed.
Don’t get me wrong, the acting was great, and the effects were spectacular. Jennifer Lawrence singing “The Hanging Tree” was awesome and haunting. But I felt like there was no real climax. The final scene was actually quite altered from the book, and added participation by Katniss that was not supposed to be there. Then it beat the audience over the head with foreshadowing of something that was about to happen. I kind of felt like it insulted the audience’s intelligence, personally. The movie ended right around where I had predicted it would, but not without trying to wrap it up with some sort of resolution. I would have preferred more of a cliffhanger, myself.
Overall, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is a good effort, but I think “underwhelming” is the word I would best use to describe it. Hopefully Part 2, due out a year from now, will bring everything together and make up for it.
My rating: 6.5