The third film in The Hunger Games franchise, Mockingjay Part 1 is the beginning of the end for this popular series of sequels. Taken from Suzanne Collins’ superb dystopian adventure tale of “everygirl” hero Katniss Everdeen and the world of Panem, a country of 13 districts ruled by one called the Capital which is run by President Snow.
Many years ago, the districts revolted and were beaten down by the Capital. The price paid by the numbered districts was being forced to offer up children each year, a boy and a girl, who had to fight representatives from other areas. These children were called tributes and only one can be “crowned” the winner. Katniss Everdeen changed that when she managed to have Peeta, a lad from her district saved with her.
This sequel of The Hunger Games picks up where the second left off (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) and at this point in the story, District 12, the home of Peeta and Katniss has been bombed flat, Peeta is a prisoner of the Capital and District 13, thought to have been destroyed years ago, is providing the Mockingjay sanctuary. What the president of this underground district wants in return is for Katniss to be the “face of the revolution.”
Based on Collins’ novels, adapted for the big screen by the author along with Peter Craig (The Town, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2) and Danny Strong (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, yes that Danny Strong, who also has written Lee Daniels’ The Butler and Game Change) and helmed by The Hunger Games: Catching Fire director Francis Lawrence this sequel follows along the path set by the trilogy penned by Ms. Collins. At this point in the series, the progress of Everdeen becoming the Mockingjay and the
saviour of that world, things slow down actionwise.
While the audience learn more about what is going on in Katniss’ mind, and what Gale is thinking, fans also learn what happened to Effie Trinket and Haymitch Abernathy along with the other tributes who survived the last games in Catching Fire. In District 13, the president is Alma Coin, who wants to lead a revolution against President Snow and the Capital. Plutarch Heavensbee spends a good amount of energy convincing President Coin that Katniss is the one who should be spearheading the war as the “Face” of the people.
This segment, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, is the build up to the last in the series, a sort of beginning of the end chapter of the Katniss and Peeta story. For fans of the original story this sequel fills the requirement of moving everything forward for the finale. For fans of the film version of the tale, it will be a little disappointing. Firstly, this is the first in the film series to not have scenes from the Tribute Games. The excitement of battle between Katniss and Peeta against other tributes does not figure into this one. It is all slow and somewhat annoying build-up, with flashbacks to earlier events and signposting what is coming next.
Watching Mockingjay, is a bittersweet experience in many ways. Not least of which is seeing Philip Seymour Hoffman in his last film role as Plutarch Heavensbee. It was while filming this role, Mockingjay 1 and 2 were filmed back-to-back, that Hoffman died of a heroin overdose. Film producers had talked of filling in gaps left by the award winning actor’s death with CG and in the end decided not to. What remains are scenes that show all too well the range and scope of this incredible actor. In the end Hoffman’s part was cut down instead of “supplemented” and what is left can only be described as a fitting testament to this late actor’s abilities.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, may be the slowest segment of the whole franchise but it is a necessary step in the whole process of telling the story of Katniss Everdeen and the fate of Panem and all its inhabitants. The sequel does follow the path set out by the trilogy, readers of the Hunger Game books will recognize this film as retelling the most frustrating part of the story. A combination of the second book and part of the third. In this penultimate installment, it is the beginning of the end and the pacing of the franchise slows because of this. Still entertaining but a little slower than the rest, the Mockingjay had to be split up, in order to bring this long tale to a satisfying conclusion. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 opens November 26, 2014. Prepare to be grimly entertained.
By Michael Smith
Brenden Palms Theatre