Movie Review: Mockingjay Part 1

Jean-Paul’s rating: 4/5 stars

Bottom Line: As good as or better than “Catching Fire”.  More great acting.  More great design.  For once, a movie where I get the bland, interchangeable, good-looking men confused.

And we’ve come to the final book of the “Hunger Games” series.  The studios, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to split the final book into two movies because money.  This is always something to be wary of, but there’s enough material in “Mockingjay Part 1” to make it both enjoyable and to leave you guessing as to what will happen when Part 2 comes out.

If you recall from my “Catching Fire” review, I’ve been looking forward to seeing “Mockingjay”.  “Catching Fire” had a lot to recommend itself and I’m happy to see that “Mockingjay” is a worthy successor in the series.  Whereas I though there was some silliness in “Catching Fire”, there was none of that in “Mockingjay”.  “Mockingjay” was also more internally consistent, which I assume is what you get when you have two movies to tell your story.

Once again, we have some superb acting jobs by the inestimable Donald Sutherland (President Snow) and by the better every time you see her Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss).  In fact, there’s a scene in this movie where Jennifer Lawrence has to pretend to act poorly and you totally believe it.  So yeah, she acts really well acting poorly.  That’s talent.  New to the series in Julian Moore who portrays President Coin very effectively.  It is also good to see the now deceased Phillip Seymore Hoffman back as Plutarch Heavensbee (He died after filming most of his “Mockingjay” lines).  Other than that, the performances are all effective to meh.  I’ve always found Josh Hutcherson’s portrayal of Peeta to be sort of annoying, but he’s better in this one.  The one thing that I found funny is how I could not tell Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Finnick (Sam Clafin) apart through most of the movie.  If they had switched roles halfway through the film, I would have been none the wiser.

Another good thing about this movie is how much the great design work really shines through.  It was just as good in the previous films, but the gaudy pomposity of the Capitol always kind of drowned out the attention to detail paid in the Districts.  Here, with very few Capitol scenes, the amount of detail paid to the scenes can really take center stage.

My only real complaint about the movie is that I think they ended the movie wrong.  There is this one scene, which I will not spoil, where I whispered over to my brother and said “Right there is where they should have ended this movie”.  You’ll know it when you see it.  Some stuff happens beyond that, but it saddens me when definitive shocking endings are wasted.

I would probably recommend a rewatching of “Catching Fire” prior to watching this movie as there were times when I was scratching my head trying to recall things that they referenced from the prior movie.  Other than that, what we have here is another winner in what’s turning out to be a very effective series of movies. Needless to say, I am looking forward to seeing the next as well.