The much anticipated Hunger Games’ film, Mockingjay –Part 1 (2014), hit theaters this week, answering the questions raised at the end of Catching Fire (2013). Are Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and the other tributes alive? Where is Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) being taken? Will she accept the role as the leader of the rebellion? What has happened to District 12? Many reviews have praised this installment as being the best one yet, but is it?
The first sequel, Catching Fire, improved upon the original in many ways. It was faster, sleeker, and more thrilling. It also had a different director, Francis Lawrence, who additionally directs Mockingjay – Part 1. One would assume that Lawrence would employ similar storytelling tactics in the most recent release, but instead, it is sluggish, unpolished, and a bit monotonous. To be fair, this film must set up the exposition for Part 2. However, there are a few ways the movie could have been more exciting.
For instance, the film starts already inside District 13 with a close up on Jennifer Lawrence’s face. From there, we only see parts of this new district- mainly the cafeteria, the meeting room, and the gathering hall. Instead, the filmmakers could have really brought the audience into this world with more establishing shots to set the scene for this novel place and to really display the difference in this community versus the others.
Another issue is that more often than not, the editing was quite abrupt. As a result, there were moments in the film that felt quite unnatural. For instance, there is a scene with Effie (Elizabeth Banks) and Plutarch (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) in the gathering hall. Cut immediately to Effie sitting at a table in the cafeteria when she first sees Katniss again. It feels as though there is a frame or short scene missing here. This could have easily been avoided with a quick cutaway shot. Many frames in the film also are slightly out of focus.
In the book, there is growing tension between Katniss and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) as the love triangle starts to unravel. The special bond between Gale and Katniss begins fading as they form different political opinions and Katniss realizes how she truly feels about Peeta. There is some allusion to this in the film, but had it been stronger, it would have created more drive to the film. With all being said though, Part 2 is set up right now to be a great film.