The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Unfortunately, this is a film designed to induce anticipation rather than satisfaction. Let Katniss fight!

The Hunger Games Mockingjay - Part 1Despite its strengths, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 gradually devolves into a long preview for Part 2. My disappointment is based on the simple fact that I loved the two prior films, as Jennifer Lawrence’s role as Katnis Everdeen is overwhelmingly likely to stand the test of time.

However, in the third installment, Ms. Everdeen is little more than an ancillary character who is called upon to appear motivated, confused and saddened. Ironically, the movie plays out largely as a psychological drama where Katnis is involved in only one brief battle where she unleashes her arrows at an enemy plane.

At times, the film depicts guerrilla warfare as being largely a political rally. As examples, Katnis is constantly filmed to motivate the local populace against the government run by President Snow (Donald Sutherland). You then see Snow releasing video harangues to inspire his disgusted citizens to not worry, just be happy. You then observe several political speeches by the rebel leader Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) to a crowd of supporters holed-up in a large silo, and you are left wondering if their war amounts to little more than Presidents Obama and Putin insulting one another on TV.

Yet despite its shortcomings, several noted performances save the day. Woody Harrelson’s Haymitch Abernathy has now sobered up to the point where he is trying to regain Katniss’ respect. Elizabeth Banks is a sight for sore eyes, again playing Effie Trinket in a defrocked state where she tries to aid Katniss. Finally, you have to remember Natalie Dormer’s role as Cressida, a blonde rebel with the left side of her head shaved and tattooed. She directs the camera work as her crew follows Katniss into dangerous territory, and you can only hope to see more of her in next year’s conclusion.

While Jeffrey Wright commands attention as the high-tech guerrilla member known as Beetee, the film seems to largely focus attention on the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. Yet who can fault Director Francis Lawrence paying understandable homage to Hoffman’s legacy rather than the film itself. No, Hoffman is quite good as he attempts to aid Julianne Moore’s guerrilla leadership, and you can’t help but mourn the sad fact that this will be the last time that we see Mr. Hoffman in a new film.

There is a bit of energy at the end, when Katniss’ kidnapped lover, Peeta Melark (Josh Hutcherson) appears in TV interviews with Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) where he supports President Snow. You strongly suspect that Peeta has been tortured unmercifully, and all of this has been left to unfold in next year’s final segment.

Let me close by saying that when I saw this film, I took my Saudi foreign exchange student. It was at 8 p.m. on opening night, and 75% of the packed theater were teenage girls. Given that my exchange student is 17, I think he enjoyed the crowd more than the film.