Now I sound like every other critic out there. I wish I could say I was totally happy with this. But the reason for my problem with this movie is pretty simple. It shouldn't have been split up. The content in this movie, although well done, just wasn't substantial enough to warrant the split. I would've preferred one very long movie, instead of a padded out first part that was basically all set up.
Of course I had the same problem with Harry Potter's final installment as well. Oddly enough, not so much with Twilight, because the book lent itself to two parts. Anyway, Mockingjay, Part One doesn't fully work as standalone feature. The flow feels abruptly shut down at a crucial moment, and now we have to wait a year for the resolution. That's a pretty tall demand of the audience, not that we have a choice. I really wonder if fans of the movies who haven't read the books are going to be upset by this ending.
As for everything else, I'm really not kidding here, my first sentence captures this one in a nutshell. The revolution is explored, not just with guns and bombs, but with propaganda and psychological warfare. In a lot of ways, the war is between President Snow and Katniss, with Donald Sutherland going out of his way to be both creepy as all hell and incredibly evil. At one point he orders... I won't spoil you guys.
Everyone was on board this time too; the acting was all really well done. Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss was amazing as usual, and she even sang (pretty well too). We got some great stuff with Effie (Elizabeth Banks) and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson). I liked Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), who are definitely the weakest elements of the franchise. Even the smaller roles like Prim (Willow Shields), Finnick (Sam Claflin), Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), and Plutarch (the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman ) were memorable, as was a rather strange and effective turn by Julianne Moore as President Coin.
But it wasn't just the acting. The world, although mostly grey, was also expanded rather well. It wasn't as lush and gorgeous as Catching Fire, but that wasn't the point. This was a story about a dystopian rebellion, and that's exactly what we got. From the faceless white armored soldiers mowing down drab looking people with automatic rifles, to bombed out towns with blackened skeletal corpses, the imagery was all stark and powerful.
This almost colorless palette somehow added life to the performances, a crumbling backdrop for the drama to play out, a stage where the emotions can come through, and we can understand the anger and devastation they are feeling. This was the first time I felt the books come to life, both in emotion and in visuals. This was the gut punch I had hoped for, and I can't imagine how much harder the next installment will be.
Other than the abrupt ending and the lack of resolution, this was otherwise a very well made, well acted, and engaging movie with a ton to like about it. The visuals were crisp and appropriately heart-wrenching, Jennifer Lawrence jumped off the screen again, and the world was broadened with more time spent in the districts. Essentially this was the best movie in the franchise so far. But wow, was it dark.
3 out of 4 Districts destroyed by the Capitol
J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related. He reviews Arrow and Farscape and cool new movies that strike his fancy.