Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 Review

November 24, 2014 1:51 pm

From the atmosphere in my local cinema on opening night of Mockingjay – Part 1, it was obvious that the Hunger Games has become a series of event films. There was a real buzz in the packed theatre, you could feel the excitement in the pre-movie chatter as the adverts rolled. The cinema was packed with fans of the series who had made a special effort to be there with other fans on opening night.  As the lights went down and the screen faded to black after the information screen showing the movie’s age certificate had been displayed, something quite cool happened. As everyone eagerly anticipated the beginning of the movie someone in the audience could be heard doing the famous whistle. Everyone has come to know this iconic series of notes as it has featured in many pivotal scenes in the franchise and features in every trailer. Not everyone heard it at first as there was still some excited nattering, which was fine as the movie hadn’t actually started yet, but just enough people heard it and remarked on it to the people around them that the entire audience became aware that someone was doing it. They went absolutely silent to listen out for it, when it was heard again quite clearly the room erupted with laughter. It was a really nice moment, these kinds of occurrences are what make it worth the while to leave the house and actually go to the cinema to watch it. It is possible now to get perfect copies of movies fairly soon and with the emergence of cheap on demand services there isn’t a lot of incentive to do anything different. But it is moments like this in event movies that motivate people to go to see the movie with other viewers.

I must say that I am not a complete Hunger Games fanatic, I was cautious about it at first but over time I have come to really like the franchise. I hadn’t read the books when the first film came out so I didn’t have much reason to be hyped about its release, I saw it some time after its release on Netflix. I thought that it was fairly good but it didn’t blow my mind, I was cautiously optimistic about what they would do in the sequels. I saw the sequel a month ago in the exact same way and by the end of the movie I was much more invested in the franchise as a whole and looking forward to Mockingjay. I have become a fan at exactly the wrong time, when the series is almost over. It pains me that now that I am becoming invested in the characters it is almost time to depart from them, but that being said, it isn’t like the movies will go anywhere, they can always be re-visited.

Director Francis Lawrence and writers; Peter Craig; Danny Strong and Suzanne Collins did a fantastic job of kicking off the epic two part finale of the dystopian action-adventure series. This instalment was a quite different in pace to the previous two, the previous films in the franchise began as slow burners, building tension and intrigue; showing acts of violence from the authority to outrage the viewer. The conclusion would then kick things up a notch, ending the movie in an exciting and action filled third act. Mockingjay – Part 1 was very different to this. It felt like the final act of a film stretched across an entire movie. Tension was retained throughout, punctuated by huge action set pieces every so often. There were many instances throughout the film in which we were subjected to exciting yet tense moments of rebellion against the regime. Tension really is the key word here, these action scenes achieve their aim of making impactful violence that isn’t in anyway glorified. The impression that everything is at stake is potent in every battle which is why you wince when you see members of the resistance shot down. A perfect example of this was the scene at the Dam, particularly when the rebels are charging at the Peacemakers who are just opening fire slaying many people mercilessly.

hunger games part 1 mockingjay

The visual effects in this movie were impressive, the Dam scene was a testament to the effort that was put into the SFX. The sets were also fantastic, the headquarters of the resistance felt incredibly atmospheric. It was an incredible industrial looking bunker that someone managed to feel incredibly alive.

The characters of the Hunger Games have worked their way into the hearts of the fans, when fan favourites appeared for the first time in the movie the viewers in the screening I was in let out a collective laugh of pleasure. Haymitch’s appearance was delayed but when he did turn up the audience let out a sigh of happiness, Elizabeth Banks as Effie is also a huge hit. Every materialistic line and pretentious mannerism provoked a laugh. She is a genuinely funny character delivered in the best possible way on-screen. Though there was a twist relating to Peta that threw everything up into the air, the movie ended on a fairly hopeful note: Peeta and the rest of the people captured by the Capitol are alive  and the Resistance is going strong, ready to take the fight to the dictator, Snow.

Mockingjay Part – 1 was a very strong film that held everyone’s attention throughout, the 123 minute running time whizzed by. Francis Lawrence and the writers masterfully utilised highs and lows, creating a really immersive experience, when a soldier of the Resistance went down you really felt it and when President Alma gave a speech you felt energised and disobedient. The acting was stellar from Philip Seymour Hoffman, (no surprise there) Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson and Josh Hutcherson. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance in this movie shows how much of a hole that is left in the film industry after his passing, it is strange to think that he will never be in any more movies, except of course for those filmed a long time ago.

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