Friday, November 21, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 Review

It's not very often that I get completely sucked into a series of books, but back in 2012 it happened with The Hunger Games. I saw the first movie before I read the books, but that movie was so good that I was an instant convert and shortly thereafter dove into the books and loved all three, even the controversial finale. In fact, after finishing Mockingjay, I sat down and wrote up a review, explaining why I loved the book. That review can be read right here, but beware of the spoilers if you haven't read the books. However, despite me loving the books, I did realize that the first half of Mockingjay was pretty slow, so splitting it into two movies had the potential of making for a very boring part 1 if they didn't do it right. Here's my exact words from that review about what I think the movie needed to do:

"let's go off on a quick tangent to talk about this Mockingjay movie. I'm interested to see what they plan on doing with this. First off they are splitting it into two movies. This could be extremely bad or it could be fantastic. It all depends on the point of view. If they decide to go strictly with the book and follow Katniss the whole time, the last half of the second Mockingjay movie will be good, but the first movie will be completely awful and boring. However, if they choose to not focus solely on Katniss, this could be great. The book can't show us all of the action that is happening around the land because it is confined to Katniss's head. But the movie can. It can veer away from Katniss while she is whining, complaining, and suffering underground in 13 and show us the war."

That review, which was published January 15, 2013, currently only has 36 views, but I am now convinced that two of those views come from Peter Craig and Danny Strong, the screenwriters for the movie, because my exact vision for what they needed to do with this movie was fulfilled. Thus the masterminds behind this franchise have once again blown me away.

If you haven't read the books yet, but have followed the movies, the first thing you really need to know is that this is definitely a part one of a two part series. What do I mean by that? I mean it's not a complete story. And in fact, much of it is a set-up for the grand finale. It moves slow and is full of political chess moves, so to speak. Also, there is no hunger games in this. The story goes in a completely different direction with the final book and I actually love the direction it goes. Moral of the story is that if you go into this movie expecting something big and grandiose like in Catching Fire, you're going to be a little let down because that's not what this movie is. Katniss is starting to be pretty messed up in the head after having to go through two straight hunger games, but yet she's needed as this Mockingjay symbol to spark or continue this rebellion against the capital. However, they can't just go out and attack the capital. Strategy and patience is needed, so we take it slow. Despite this, though, the movie actually does a great job with the pacing. This could've been a boring movie, but it wasn't. In the book there is a lot of down time because they are trying to protect Katniss. This is shown in this movie, but we didn't spend too much time sitting around and doing nothing. I was completely interested and focused the whole movie, without any signs of being bored, which is great considering that wasn't the case when I read Mockingjay.

What really makes this work is the same thing that made the first two work so well. The cast. Jennifer Lawrence is the perfect Katniss and she definitely proves once again how talented of an actress she is because she does a great job of being the Katniss that is messed up and crazy. But of course Jennifer isn't the only one that's great. Just like was the case with the first two movies, everyone just does a phenomenal job. Since I can't spend time praising every single person, there's a couple that I want to specifically highlight outside Jennifer. The first is Willow Shields as Prim. Willow didn't get a whole lot of screen time in the first two movies, but here role in this one is much larger and I thought she was simply amazing and adorable as the Katniss' younger sister as she gets the opportunity to help Katniss out and comfort her as she is going through her rough patches. While Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson Donald Sutherland, Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks, Jeffrey Wright, and Stanley Tucci were all great, the other actor I want to talk about is the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. His role in the last movie was pretty big, but it gets even bigger in this one and I couldn't help but be saddened every time I saw him. He does such a good job and I'm sad we lost such a great actor. May he rest in peace.

There isn't a whole ton of new players in this movie, but those that were new did a good job of seamlessly fitting in with everyone else as was the case last year with Catching Fire. Leading this crew of course is Julianne Moore as President Coin. Julianne Moore has had quite the prolific career that includes four Oscar nominations and a potential fifth one this year for the movie Still Alice, which could get her her first win. Her role as President Coin is yet another solid performance for her. But alas, moving on from the acting, I need to talk about the song from the movie. If you read the book, you'll know that there is a scene where they are sitting by the river and Katniss starts singing this song called "The Hanging Tree." If you are like me, you were very intrigued with the lyrics of the song as you read it and you may have spent a good deal of time analyzing the lyrics. And finally, if you are once again like me, you may have been very curious to see what the tune was going to be when they put this in the movie. As the scene came on, I became suddenly excited because I knew what was going to happen and oh my heck was this epic. It was one of the best scenes in the movie as the song was just beautiful. Jennifer Lawrence was the one actually singing and she did great with it. As a comparison, the first thing that I thought of was the "Misty Mountains" song from the first Hobbit movie. That, too, was a song written in the book that the movie put to music. It started out a cappella, then more joined in, and suddenly it became the main theme song of the movie that you couldn't stop singing. Yup. Same deal here.  

Overall, I was a bit nervous going into this movie because, despite loving the first two movies, splitting the finale into two movies was a risk that could lead to a boring first part. But they did such a good job with the material given that I was genuinely surprised and impressed with how amazing this turned out. The only thing I didn't like about the movie was when it ended because I was just ready to go all the way through the Mockingjay story. But that of course is a positive because they successfully got me pumped for what should be a pretty epic finale to this series next year. I know a lot of people hated how the books ended, but I loved it and if you want to know why, just go read that Mockingjay book review that I posted at the beginning of this review. It should be a very powerful, heart-wrenching finale that tugs at all my emotional strings and now that we have seen everything leading up to it, I'm officially ready for next November. As far as my grade for Mockingjay - Part 1, I actually gave the first two Hunger Games movies the same grade, that of a 9/10. That trend continues. I also give this movie a 9/10. I could rank all three from best to worst if you made me, but the fact of the matter is that I loved all three of them about equally. They are all great movies. Once we get the final chapter next year, I fully expect The Hunger Games franchise to be considered one of the best franchises ever made. It will be in my book, anyways.

No comments:

Post a Comment