November 21, 2014 by Hope W.
Looks like my Mockingjay – Part 1 review will be up before Big Hero 6’s, though that one has been on the backburner for more than a week. But it’s The Hunger Games, so I had to do this first.
Katniss, or rather, the people egging her on, wages a propaganda war against the Capitol in this installment, which means lots of scenes in a dull grey bunker in District 13. Perhaps not very exciting — many critics have bemoaned the lack of action and the fact that it feels like a “Part 1” — but I feel it’s fine for the most part. But that’s because I read the book and am such a huge fan that my eyes are blinkered by comparisons to the book. Those who didn’t read them will surely feel that it’s draggy and incomplete. I still much prefer Catching Fire though, because as mentioned last year, it was adapted from my favourite book in the series with lots of good, plotty action, and shit hasn’t hit the fan yet.
Mockingjay – Part 1 is as true to the book as it can possibly be, even with the addition of Effie in District 13, but there is still something I feel a little lacking from it. Maybe because they truncated parts of the book which I really enjoyed, like Finnick in his fragile mental state, his more active role in shooting the propos and supporting Katniss in their mutual anxiety over their loved ones in the Capitol, Katniss’ interactions and observations about the people in District 13, all the crowded scenes in Command which have mostly been reduced to just Plutarch, Coin and Katniss, etc. I understand the reason for not including all these things, but they added flavour to the story, which in the movie felt grey and bland at times, since all the interesting bits were from Katniss’ internal monologuing and her point of view. These were replaced by intense stares on Jennifer Lawrence’s part, and she was great, but a movie cannot survive on meaningful looks alone. At least, not this movie.
One of the parts I felt was especially short-changed was Finnick’s revelation that the Victors were sold as sex slaves after the Games. In the book, it comes as a shock and you’re hooked as he reveals all the dirty secrets of the Capitol; but here, it was intercut and had to vie with the more exciting shots of the rescue team in action, so the political and ethical ramifications of the speech cannot help but be lost.
I’m also not a fan of Katniss talking to President Snow directly — it felt forced into the scene — but her reaction afterwards when she cried to Haymitch “Did I lose them both tonight?! I lost them both tonight!” was terrific. Jennifer Lawrence is really a national treasure.
And “The Hanging Tree”! That was a scene I wasn’t sure would make it into the movie as it didn’t seem very cinematic, but the end result was beyond anything I could have dreamt. The tune and accompaniment is so haunting — I’m amazed at how well it matched the lyrics in the book — and was made doubly poignant when they segued into a scene of one of the districts launching a brave attack on the Peacekeepers. What the movies have always done better is showing the fight in the districts, and with the song in the background, it became the best scene in the movie, hands down. I started hunting for the song immediately after the movie ended, but for unknown reasons, the soundtrack with the score (not the one curated by Lorde) is not out for sale yet. :S Jennifer Lawrence carried it off beautifully, despite her claims that she can’t sing. (Then again, it’s a simple tune, so it would have been difficult for her to *not* sing it well.)
I would have liked more Haymitch and him still being a mentor to Katniss though the games are over. Especially the part where Katniss only wanted to go to him for comfort after she realises that Peeta is suffering due to her being the Mockingjay, because “he loves Peeta, too”. I feel that it wasn’t acknowledged in the film that besides Katniss, Haymitch was the other person left in District 12 who truly cared for Peeta’s well-being. And I also wanted Katniss to completely break down after that scene, but they only went halfway with her refusing to do the propos.
I was guessing that they would end the movie with “Send me to District Two”, but what they decided on wasn’t bad, especially with her shell-shocked expression and red eyes watching Peeta go absolutely berserk, overlaid with the contrast of President Coin giving a triumphant speech. But I would like to see how they are going to squeeze Finnick and Annie’s wedding, the whole attack in District Two, and then their training, actual attack on the Capitol AND the aftermath into the next movie.
On a side note: I HATE people who use their phones in the cinema. There was an IDIOT a few rows down who decided that he had to send all his messages, or whatever it was he was doing instead of watching the movie, during the first 10 to 15 minutes, and the bright screen was so distracting I missed parts of the dialogue. In the end a guy a few seats away in the row behind him couldn’t take it anymore and leaned over to tell him to stop using his phone, and he finally desisted. But gosh, did I want to punch him!