As a general rule, money and greed pretty much fuck up everything society holds dear. Marriage, democracy, Space Raiders going up to 15p – and cinema is no exception.
Hell Michael Bay is allowed to create his risible, putrid film output as much as he wants, all because they rake in a shit load of cash at the Box Office – regardless of to what extent they poison our collective consciousness.
It is the motivation of money that leads movie studios to take decisions such as splitting The Hobbit – a book of 300-odd pages – into a trilogy of three hour films, or, as we’re about to discuss, the final Hunger Games book into two parts.
With this in mind you’d be forgiven for expecting The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 to be somewhat inconsequential and frustrating, like indulging in some foreplay before your partner turns to you and says, “Okay that was great, we’ll reconvene next Christmas”. So how does THG:MP1 – that acronym is sure to catch on – get away with it?
We pick up the story with Katniss Everdeen not looking very happy at all, and why would she? After all, we have all just seen her boobs. She was of course rescued from the Games’ arena by the District 13-based rebels, although the mental scars of battle have left her not so much surly and aloof like before, but rather surly and kind of sad. Just wait until she realises her home, District 12, has been transformed into an episode of Time Team. That’s a combination of rubble and skeletons, non-archaeology fans.
As the first half of a greater narrative it goes without saying that the story doesn’t progress massively, and in terms of ‘stuff happening’ it doesn’t match either of the previous two installments, however it is in creating a general dystopic feeling of dread and tension that it really excels.
The overall tone of Mockingjay Part 1 is incredibly dark for a 12A, and it is any wonder they managed to retain the certificate with such constant levels of distress and threat, as well as the odd grisly moment. It’s refreshing to see a big budget movie realise that excitement doesn’t equate to blowing the shit out of everything in sight for 45 minutes, a la the likes of Man of Steel or many of the Marvel franchise.
There’s strong performances across the board too, with Jennifer Lawrence delivering a boat load of tumultuous emotion, the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman effortlessly cool as usual, and even the previously whiny Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) suddenly becomes a far more interesting protagonist. Julianne Moore’s somewhat staid performance belies her character’s presidential title, although she does spend the entire film alongside Hoffman.
If Mockingjay does a great job of developing an atmosphere, it perhaps doesn’t expand on the Panem world to a great extent, with the hinted at civil disobedience and acts of rebellion that occur outside of District 13 merely depicted with a couple of brief action set pieces. This may be a consequence of the fact that the final book is written solely from Katniss’ perspective, however if they weren’t going to stick with this dynamic religiously throughout the film anyway, the uprising could’ve been developed further. The District 13 rebels spend much of the movie filming propaganda material, although at times you can’t help wondering if anyone’s actually watching it.
It’s a minor issue really in what is an otherwise satisfying sequel. The caveat however is that, although Mockingjay Part 1 may very well be an enjoyable 2 hours that does an excellent job of setting up next year’s finale, we can’t help thinking that it could have made for an altogether better film experience had it never been split up in the first place.