Gotta love two part finales....
Well...I really don't know what to say here. It's tough, because on one side you have part 1 of a two part finale, and the first part of those things is always the setup and two is always where all hell breaks loose. See Harry Potter. See the atrocity that is The Hobbit. It always happens. However Mockingjay Part 1 does a surprisingly great job of making the setup feel like its own thing. It does help that at least some of the major plot points that are brought up in this movie are resolved by the end of it. Not all of them, obviously, but some. Some pretty big ones even. It felt more like a TV show than a part 1 of a two part finale. There are very few long extended conversations between characters that really slow down the pace of the film and add some unnecessary fluff like there are in the second Hobbit movie or in Harry Potter part 1. However at the same time it is very hard to overlook the fact that this movie really is not necessary at the end of the day. It is so hard for me to get past cash-grabbing movies. But, of all the obvious cash-grabs, this just might be the best one. So here we go!
First off, acting. It's cool to see Jennifer Lawrence back in the role that got her going, and to see her once again being a straight-up female badass is awesome. Can I just have a moment to talk about Katniss? Katniss is one of the best written heroes I have ever seen. She doesn't have a "Boy who lived" sort of persona, or something else that makes her born to be the hero. I think how Katniss reacts to being the leader of this revolution is exactly how most of us would react if we were thrown into that role. We don't want it, but there it is. And we have to take it. I think that aspect of humility within Katniss is why personally I think she is the best hero out there in young adult fiction, and why I personally identify with her more than any other hero in the young adult genre. Anyway. I digress. While Lawrence is fantastic as the lead, the rest of the cast is also phenomenal, all reprising their roles exceptionally. Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci both have a blast with their roles again. The addition of actresses Julianne Moore and Natalie Dormer (from Game of Thrones) were also great decisions on the part of director Francis Lawrence. Their talent does nothing but add to Mockingjay Part 1. I fully expect Moore to have a huge role in part 2 as well. Also, Philip Seymour Hoffman. God I'm gonna miss that man. I wish I could learn more about his character, as I feel like these movies have not explained his role in this whole thing as well as they could have. Plus it's Philip Seymour Hoffman. I'd give just about anything for him to play Katniss over Jennifer Lawrence. Even though that wouldn't make any sense at all, my counter to that lack of logic is the fact that Philip Seymour Hoffman is a badass. That's it. Man I'm tired...anyway....oh! Freaking Donald Sutherland is awesome as President Snow. His chilling performance of the character is one I'll remember for a while, as I have with the other two movies before this one. A legendary actor if there ever was one. Now, writing. The writer of this movie has written mostly political movies and documentaries in his career, and it really shows here. Without the games to serve as the focal point of the movie, Mockingjay Part 1 instead spends a significant amount of time focusing on the politics of this world it lives in. And it is really fascinating to see just how similar the rebellion is to the capital in both their advertising tactics and even their overall message. I haven't read the books, so I don't know what's going to happen, but I expect this to be a major point of part 2 as well. The most important thing part 1 can do is set up part 2, and I can't wait for Mockingjay Part 2! Gosh am I even making sense right now? Oh ya, also, the first 2 acts of this movie are really intense, as the fluff they add to make the movie 123 minutes long is some really interesting fluff.
That said, the movie does slow down a bit in the third act. GOD D*MNIT ANOTHER THIRD ACT F*CKUP. There are a few scenes that aren't really necessary and are clearly added for fluff, and even the big set piece of the film in the third act is extended longer than it should be for the sake of making the movie 2 hours long. But still, I was on the edge of my seat while the set piece was taking place. The movie (mostly) did have me on the edge of my seat all throughout, even if at certain times (like the end of the big set piece) I asked myself, "where the last 10 minutes really necessary?" Oh well. These two part finales are here to say, so it's about time I just lay back and accept it. But really, there are only a few negatives here. The third act is not as good as the first two, but nowhere near to the point of the third act train wrecks that are Interstellar and Fury. Additionally, I do think Philip Seymour Hoffman's character could've benefited from a bit more backstory. Seriously. Finally, there was a lot of humor in this movie, which is definitely a good thing, but some of it was not timed very well, and as a result the room was laughing at some of the most serious points of the film. When all the sudden a joke comes soaring in at a high point of tension, that may not be a good thing. Man I'm tired....look, I know everyone in the world is going to see this, so my words are likely falling on deft ears. Especially when I agree with everyone in the world here. Go see it! While it is still unnecessary, it is the best of all the unnecessary part ones of two part finale movies that I've seen. I can only hope Divergent's two-part finale is as good as this....
PS-go listen to the soundtrack. Lorde's Yellow Flicker Beat is freaking awesome.
The Critique: While a cash-grab, Mockingjay Part 1 does its best to make itself a great standalone addition to The Hunger Games franchise.
The Recommendation: If you have never watched a Hunger Games movie, DO NOT START WITH THIS ONE. You will be lost. Star with Catching Fire. It is still the best movie of the series, and it appeals to everyone. However, you absolutely should watch Catching Fire then go see this. And everyone else should see this too. This is a great movie.
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 8/10 Great