Review: THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY - PART 1 (2014) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


3 stars
Blessed with strong performances and a welcome change of pace that focuses more onto political drama, THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY - PART 1 is fairly intense but needlessly overlong.

With the first two movies' combined total of more than US$1.5 billion at the box office worldwide, THE HUNGER GAMES franchise is so phenomenally popular that the trailers for the highly-anticipated MOCKINGJAY is heavily promoted as "the worldwide movie event of the year". If you're expecting something epic, chances are you might end up disappointed with the movie's distinctively lack of action this time around, especially those who have grown accustomed to the HUNGER GAMES' action-adventure style. Instead, THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY - PART 1 is replaced with something more cerebral and more drama that is heavy on political themes. Such radical approach might alienate most casual viewers, but frankly, I personally appreciate the tonal shift that the movie chooses to embrace here.


Picking up after the event of THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has been rescued from the destruction of the Quarter Quell and now finds herself awakened in the secret underground bunker of District 13. President Coin (Julianne Moore), who is the leader of the uprising, wants Katniss to embrace her role as Mockingjay and makes her the figurehead for the propaganda in order to inspire more people from other districts to join the fight against the tyranny of President Snow's (Donald Sutherland) dictatorship. 

Throughout his movie career since his feature debut in 2005's CONSTANTINE, director Francis Lawrence -- returning for the second time after 2013's THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE -- is widely known as an accomplished visual stylist who is more adept with action than drama. However, Lawrence did manage to prove himself before that he could handle drama effectively in 2011's WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, and he did it again -- albeit not entirely successful --  in THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY - PART 1.

The soundtrack for the movie is worthy of a mention here, especially Lorde's beautifully haunting theme song, Yellow Flicker Beat, fits well with the movie's gloomy tone.

Although Jennifer Lawrence doesn't get involved with much action this time around, her rousing performance alone is worthwhile enough to carry the dramatic weight. Series newcomers Julianne Moore gives a perfectly steely and no-nonsense performance as President Coin, while Natalie Dormer (TV's The Tudors and Game of Thrones) is equally engaging as Katniss' propaganda director, Cressida. Most of the supporting actors here, including Donald Sutherland, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright and Elizabeth Banks, provide solid supports.

The heartfelt, yet inspiring moment where a flock of mockingjays are chirping in the sky and Katniss starts singing a beautiful folk song, The Hanging Tree.

Although THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY - PART 1 is by far the shortest movie in the series (clocking at two hours plus, whereas the previous two were all 20 minutes longer), the pace still draggy in places with some of the scenes feel lengthy as if the studio (Lionsgate) needs to fulfill a 2-hour movie quota. Speaking of the studio, the movie could have been better if it is not split into two chapters. After all, Suzanne Collins' final book of THE HUNGER GAMES series is only 390 pages long -- which makes it so obvious that the studio's decision is all about milking more money from the viewers.

For the third time in the row since the first HUNGER GAMES, Liam Hemsworth, who's been given more screen time here since Josh Hutcherson's character has significantly reduced this time around, fails to make a lasting impression with his wooden performance as Gale.


Whether or not the movie's bold departure from the usual formula affected the overall box office performance is remain to be seen. As for all the dramatic buildup that shown so densely in THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY - PART 1, I hope that the second and concluding chapter of the franchise can deliver a satisfying payoff worthy for all the long wait when it opens next November.

* This review is written courtesy from TGV press screening * 

No comments: