Blame must lay squarely at the feet of the franchise’s very own Capitol, the greedy suits at Lionsgate, who decided to forgo quality for the sake of two cash-cow instalments, piggybacking off the deserved success of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, and continuing the worrying trend of adding bloat to the final parts of film series by splitting the source in two.
The rather lifeless, all-too-serious Mockingjay Part 1 could have been forgiven had it been the pre-cursor to an all-action, emotionally satisfying send-off for the girl on fire, but this unfolds in a po-faced manner that translates as just plain dull, and is only really saved by another terrific performance from Jennifer Lawrence, who has outgrown a stagnating series.
This picks up shortly after a Clockwork Oranged Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) has attempted to murder his faux wife, and poster girl for the rebellion, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence). Everyone is still sitting around underground, like they have done for the previous three hours, periodically making tedious propaganda movies, until about an hour in, when the monologues stop and the filmmakers decide to bring this thing to a conclusion.
For those hungering for the sorely absent games, the remaining gamesmasters have planted a series of “pods” throughout the Capitol, to make Katniss’ journey to assassinate President Snow (Donald Sutherland) that little bit trickier. Will she finally have her vengeance? Will she finally choose between Peeta and Gale (Liam Hemsworth)? Will she ever bloody smile?
Most of these questions are answered, but in a rather unsatisfying way. The love triangle dilemma, which has always felt a bit of an afterthought, and seemingly dismissed in part 1, rears its ugly head again. Liam Hemsworth’s zero charisma performance does the audience apathy towards it no favours, and although most set-pieces are peppered with a suggestion towards which way Katniss will lean, the choice revelation is dealt with in such a lacklustre fashion that you wish she’d stuck an arrow through each of them, to put the characters, and us, out of our misery.
When the action kicks in, it’s brief and derivative. A 20 minute sequence in which our protagonists run from a horde of I Am Legend meets The Descent beasties, is lifted straight from Alien Resurrection’s tunnel based pursuit, right down to the grenade toss suicide from a ladder shot, and all the exploding floors and eviscerating light beams do is remind you how much fun the early instalments were.
The pacing of the finale also feels off. After a genuinely shocking act of terrorism, you’re primed for her cathartic payoff, the moment she confronts the man who has put her through so much pain, and then a FADE TO BLACK causes the momentum to grind to halt. And don’t even mention the Attack of the Clones field based coda.
The reason to stick with this until the bitter end is Lawrence, even if your senses have been dulled by the narrative, her ability to draw you back in, to make it feel real, to make you give a stuff, has been prevalent since the moment she was thrown into that arena. She deserved better, and so did we.
Review by Matthew Rodgers