Following almost directly after the events of last year’s entry ‘Catching Fire’, the third film in ‘the Hunger Games’ film franchise – ‘Mockingjay Part One’ had the difficult job of being the first instalment of the adaptation of the least-liked book in the original trilogy. The book had always been a hit-and-miss, although the general consensus seemed to be that ‘Mockingjay’ was the weakest link.
‘Mockingjay Part One’, luckily, did not give out the same reaction that the book did at the midnight screening. The third film brings the audience to District 13, where Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is being used as a propaganda tool by President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman). She is being followed around by a film crew from the Capitol, with the ever-faithful Gale (Liam Hemsworth) by her side. Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) finds himself in a situation where he becomes a prisoner of Capitol. Katniss is on a quest to save Peeta and the Victors who have been captured.
By all means, the film had its’ highlights. For example, the scenes in Districts 5, 8 and 12 are particularly haunting at times. Director Francis Lawrence does not hold back and does not water down the source material. He shows the post-traumatic stress disorders suffered by the refugees. I have always had issues with Jennifer Lawrence’s acting, but her “if we burn, you burn with us” speech was just fantastic, and gone is the rather emotionless Katniss I remember from the first film. Another highlight for me was seeing the relationship between Katniss and Prim develop - because it’s a different medium from the books we never truly get inside Katniss’ head and now we do. Arguably, there is more character development in this instalment than I ever found in the previous two films.
There is always an issue with splitting a book into two or more films – and that question is always ‘where is it going to end?’ I personally think they chose the best possible place to end it, and by the time the credits rolled, you could tell who had and who had not read the books.
It was not the perfect film – Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), Effie (Elizabeth Banks) and Finnick (Sam Claflin) were, in my opinion, underused, especially considered how well-loved their characters appear to be with the masses. There was a four minute scene where there was a lot of strobe lighting and there was no warning beforehand – so it’s probably not a good idea to see it if you have epilepsy, for example; and finally, the source material questionably ran a little thin and ‘Mockingjay Part One’ could have possibly benefitted from being one three hour film than two shorter films.
‘Mockingjay Part One’ is intense and uncomfortable to watch at times, but it shows the damaging effects of war and other traumatic experiences. For me, the most impressive thing about this film was that it managed to be better than the book.