Departing from the battle royale format of the two previous Hunger Games instalments, Mockingjay – Part 1 plunges the franchise into deeper terrain. Figuratively, with the pic continuing Katniss Everdeen’s trauma-fuelled mental disintegration and its subject matter becoming bleaker and more violent, as well as the literally underground setting in which much of Mockingjay’s talk of revolution plays out. Against this deep bunker backdrop the cast spend a lot of time sporting unflattering jumpsuits and talking about what is to come in the next chapter, truncated storytelling that hampers this working as a standalone pic.
Yes, there is plenty of narrative to work through, and the performances and events that unfold deserve the breathing space that splitting Mockingjay into two films allows. But that makes for all build-up and little payoff, lacking a blockbuster set piece finale (even as it tries to make the most of a rebellion skirmish and an aerial commando raid). Thankfully there’s an emotional climax, a cliffhanger that’s less deflating than that of Catching Fire and will further enthuse the audience to see Part 2 – not that they really need any assistance at this point.
Director Francis Lawrence continues his knack for avoiding obvious, emotionally overwrought moments, something he’s aided considerably in by Lawrence’s expectedly excellent performance. The whole franchise has benefited immensely from the inner turmoil she brings to life, and no more so than here. For swathes of the film, Katniss has little to do but react to the actions of others, though she does get to blow stuff up with her bow and enjoy a literal save the cat moment. And until Part 2, that’s the most you’re gonna get.
‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1’ Movie Times