Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part One is a moderately entertaining installment only for those already deeply invested in the popular film franchise.
Jennifer Lawrence does a fine job showing the evolution of Katniss Everdeen from games competitor to a semi-media manufactured warrior leader of the district rebellion to come. However, the action that was such a highlight in the last installment, “Catching Fire” is watered down here – leaving the film painfully padded with often unnecessary expository filler and dour content.
Katniss is now in the company of the hidden rebellion headquarters helmed by Plutarch ( Philip Seymour-Hoffman ) and President Alma Coin ( Julianne Moore ) as the duo try to convince Katniss to rally the growing but fractured rebellion among the various districts against the Capitol’s oppression and brutal iron boot tactics under President Snow ( Donald Sutherland ).
There are some interesting and entertaining sequences to be seen, such as when Katniss ( Lawrence ) is called upon to be the face of the district rebellion and has to be coached to convincingly convey the image of a powerful leader. Her tentative insecurity in her new role as the rallying lightning rod is wonderful to see evolve into something gradually stronger; as she is literally coiffed and coached with all the orchestrated media choreography of a political campaign commercial.
Another standout, but quieter moment is when Lawrence as Katniss is called upon to sing what will become the rebellion’s rallying cry, “The Hanging Tree”. In televised interviews, Lawrence has stated she was terrified of having to sing on film, feeling her abilities were not up to the task. However, the sequence is poignant and memorable in Lawrence’s rendition and commitment; as well as it’s quiet power and the unification the song suggests it ultimately generates among the districts.
Mockingjay ( part one ) could’ve / should’ve been folded into one streamlined, faster paced one part sequel. Instead, we get a fairly fun piece of filler that’s clearly more of an appetizer to whet the palate of audiences for the big finale slated to come a year from now.
As a stand alone film, especially for those new to the franchise – “Hunger Games : Mockingjay” ( part one ) is entertaining enough, but it’s still lacking.
What we ultimately get with this installment is not much more than an intermission before the main event.
Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part One is not a bad film by any means. However, it is a padded overlong chapter who’s payoff could’ve more effectively been told in one final spectacular film.
Tim Estiloz is an Emmy winning entertainment journalist and member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Boston Online Film Critics Association. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimEstiloz and at www.TimEstiloz.com. – Be sure to LIKE his page on Facebook at: Tim Estiloz Film Reviews.