I will start by saying that yes, they included the scene where Katniss sings – are you, are you, coming to the tree – and it is more glorious, heartbreaking, visually stunning and emotionally resonating than you could imagine.
I saw the film last Thursday night. Half a week later and I am still turning the film over in my mind… The third Hunger Games book, Mockingjay has been transformed into a deeply emotional and brilliantly filmed piece that satisfies you as a viewer while setting up the action for the final instalment.
I personally think two films is a good thing for this book. It would be all too easy to cut out the detail and make it a fast, action flick. This film, like the book itself, makes you shift down a gear and really think about the cost war has on people, communities, the environment, and one’s sense of self. Mockingjay Pt 1 has beautiful artistic direction and stunning acting that pays tribute to the emotional and human cost of war.
In the explosive aftermath of breaking free of the Arena in Catching Fire, Katniss and other rebels have fled to District 13, an underground base that has been planning a revolution against the oppressive Capitol for decades. However, Peeta, Katniss’s lover, and Victor have been captured and imprisoned in the Capitol. Katniss is uneasily forced to accept her role as figurehead for the revolution, even though she doesn’t fully support it herself. As Panem sinks deeper into what seems an unwinnable war, Katniss is now fighting in a new and uncontrollable arena, where the impact of her actions are reaching further than she had first imagined.
Mockingjay was easily the bleakest, most heartbreaking book of the series. It was also the book where one of the major complaints was that very little happened for many pages. However, I think now seeing it translated onto screen, it is a perfect book and film. Very little happens because a revolution takes time, it takes daily grind and struggle. Katniss is a broken hero, struggling with her PTSD and reluctance to be forced into another role of deception. And yet, the two-and-half hours were gone in a flash! I think because the film takes a step back and incorporates the wider world outside of Katniss’s mind – the cruel calculations and tactics of President Snow, the way the rebel side tries to manipulate the Mockingjay image in exactly the same way the Capitol did in Catching Fire. It makes for a film of high tension, politic discourse and action that definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat.
But when you draw away from the overarching theme of the film, it’s the attention to tiny details in the book that make it perfect – Prim braiding Katniss’s hair; District 12 reduced to Pompei-like rubble. Katniss failing at being a scripted hero for propaganda; Peeta trapped in the Capitol as a pawn opposing Katniss, in the grip of a tyrannical war machine. I also love the dense but clean forests that surround District 13. For a dystopian world born of war and global warming it is abundantly green… nature always wins in the end.
There’s so much about this film, so much to say and so many feels to be had! Considering that I deeply love the series I am already biased to loving this film and truly happy that it took the most heartbreaking book and made it into something beautiful; like what Cinna does to Katniss. The directing from Francis Lawrence is on point and Jennifer Lawrence will absolutely floor you with how perfect she is. From mental breakdown to rebel heroine, she delivers a performance that will launch her into the same calibre of acting as Meryl Streep.
And a big shoutout goes to Elizabeth Banks who is shining as Effie! The fans loved her so much she was saved from a Capitol prison and given a great part in Mockingjay! Best line – “You know what needs a revolution? That hair!”
Donald Sutherland is delivering a truly spine-chilling performance as President Snow. Actually the entire cast – Game of Thrones alumni Natalie Dormer, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson , Woody Harrelson, Julianne Moore – is superb! I especially liked Julianne Moore’s crisp efficiency as President Coin. One of the most resonant moments comes when she is delivering a speech, and Plutarch stands in the background mouthing the words while Effie looks on in horror.
Of course this film is dedicated to the memory of Philip Seymour Hoffman. I like to hope that he would have been proud of the great calibre of film he was a part of.
Mockingjay Part 1 features just enough action and danger to satisfy, while setting the scene for the final part next year (it’s going to be torture to wait!).