Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part One (12A)

Look we all know why this is a two-parter - and it's not "to let the story breathe" as one of the stars claimed on a recent Film 2014.

It's a money spinner, pure and simple, and it's not like you can skip this one because given their habit of assuming everyone has seen the first two you'll have to watch this to know what the hell is going on when Part Two arrives this time next year.

And that's just one of my beef's with the film.

Don't get me wrong, I get the economics - but, like The Hobbit, when a story is stretched beyond breaking point just to make a bit of extra cash you've got to wonder where will it all end now the accountants are in charge.

But, as ever, I digress.

So, the film itself...

In short, as a way of passing time waiting for the action to arrive, it'll do. But it's possibly the longest two-hour film I've seen this year.

Only covering the first third of the book (and still missing out Katniss' military training), Mockingjay 1 picks up where Catching Fire left off, with Katniss being positioned as the figurehead of the rebellion.

And that really is all this film covers - preparing for the final showdown.

They make propaganda films. Katniss rehomes her sister's cat. People argue over Peeta.

It does get gripping late on, but by then you're starting to wonder if President Snow couldn't just crack on and carpet bomb District 13 again.

And I say all this as a fan of the books and the first two films.

The biggest problem is the amount of presumed knowledge this film works with.

Look at other trilogies - say Star Wars and Toy Story - and you can watch any one film and there will be enough time spent catching you up on what's happened that you won't feel like you're missing anything.

Even Harry Potter managed that, across eight films.

Because, for a film to work it has to be able to stand alone. You can't assume the only people watching are the ones who saw the previous instalments.

Any idea why Katniss is stuffing a cat in a bag? Tough, you'll find out later when you've stopped wondering.

Can't remember what the Quarter Quell Games were? No idea why Effie is important to Katniss? Only a vague recollection of the significance of the roses? Best read the books then, or watch the last film again.

All of which is a shame, because when you're not trying to remember what happened before there are some good performances on show here.

Jennifer Lawrence brings a darker feel to Katniss, while Liam Hemsworth moves further out of his brother's shadow by standing taller than in previous HG films as Gale Hawthorne.

Then there's the final performance of Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Sure, Film 2014 didn't think it warranted a mention, and Cineworld's own app doesn't even mention he's in the damn film, but after a rocky opening few minutes he once again stands central to proceedings, providing an under-stated performance which allows others around him to make their presence felt.

In fact, he's so integral to HGM1 (as no one else is calling it), you've got to hope he wrapped up most of his scenes before sadly leaving this mortal coil.

If not, HGM2 is going to have a damn great hole in it.

Oh, and another moment of annoyance - having spent well over 90 minutes expecting the audience to know what's already happened, they then feel the need to explain what Tracker Jacker venom is.


And Katniss has to ask if Cinna (played by Lenny Kravitz in the first two films) had died despite having watched him being dragged away and beaten to a bloody pulp.

Of all the things we're expected to remember, and they have to remind you of something that has no bearing on this film? Sheesh...

That's not to say, even with all this griping and moaning, that HGM1 is a bad film, it's not - it's just nowhere near as good as the first two.

It's a place holder, a filler, the sorbet before desert arrives.

I expect next year's finale to be a humdinger - and after this, it really needs to be.


  1. Great review :) I kinda agree, this one felt undercooked, especially with the ending. Although, I did like it better than the first.

    1. Ooohh, not sure I can agree with that. At least with the first one there was no danger of presuming people knew what was going on ;)