The Hunger Games franchise was always more than its action sequences, something that helps Suzanne Collins’ final book survive Hollywood’s dissection into two parts.
Mockingjay Part One is the darkest of all the films so far. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is living in District 13’s underground bunker and is the poster girl for revolution against the totalitarian Capitol.
Last year, Catching Fire repeated the televised killing games to transform Katniss from spirited victor to willing revolutionary. Mockingjay Part One takes credit for a more original approach to its character development, focussing on the atrocities of war from torture, to executions and genocide.
But Katniss does battle with dictator Snow (Donald Sutherland) through propaganda and she’s deployed to the ruined Districts with a camera crew to provoke her fighting spirit. Media satire has always been at the heart of The Hunger Games and in Mockingjay’s action void, it takes centre stage. It’s relevant, with plenty of substance, but propaganda doesn’t make for the most energetic cinema. The trouble is that for large parts of the film, we’re watching people watching TV.
In the film’s odd climax, Katniss is a bystander, left to watch the rebel action on yet another screen. It’s a strange creative choice that saps power from the franchise’s passionate heroine. Yet it’s rescued by Lawrence’s magnetic performance that remains unrivalled in the young adult genre. The final scene is so chilling that desperation to see next year’s finale is inevitable.
VERDICT: ✭✭✭✭ 4/5
Running Time: 123 Minutes
Images: © 2014 Lionsgate
UK Release Date: 20 November 2014