This Thursday, the highly anticipated third instalment of the the Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay Part 1 hit Swiss cinemas. It suffers from being split in two parts, but remains entertaining thanks to an eerie atmosphere and great acting.
Revolution is in the air
Mockingjay begins after the end of the Quarter Quell, the second Hunger Games involving the heroine, Katniss Everdeen. She now resides in District 13, a district once believed to be destroyed by the tyrannical Capitol. However, Peeta Mellark, her fellow champion and companion, has not been rescued and was instead captured by President Snow himself. While Katniss is reunited with Prim (her sister), Gale (her best friend who loves her) and her mother, she also meets the president of District 13, Alma Coin. Katniss ‘ actions in the last two Hunger Games (movies) have led to outright revolution and President Coin is eager to use her as its symbol, Mockingjay.
Everyone is broken
Mockingjay – Part 1 doesn’t involve any Hunger Games anymore, but brings the fight to real world. The impact of the gruesome tradition however is felt throughout the movie. All of characters who have participated in them are understandably haunted by their memories and actions. It speaks for the movie that it features a stellar cast.
Jennifer Lawrence shines once again in the role that catapulted her to global superstardom. She manages to hit all the right notes (quite literally in one chilling scene), conveying a wide range of emotions effortlessly. She also profits from having fantastic actors to play with. But it’s clear that this franchise would never be as successful without her as a lead.
The late Philip Seymour Hoffman (as Plutarch Heavensbee, a revolution leader), Julianne Moore (as Alma Coin) and Donald Sutherland (as President Snow) all deliver great performances. Hoffman excels as the witty and sly power behind the throne, Moore brings much needed authority to her role and Sutherland exudes power and authority as the main antagonist.
Others try to make the most out of their limited screen time like Josh Hutcherson (Peeta) and Sam Claflin (Finnick). Both of them get most of their scenes in monologues: while Claflin excellently adds depth to his character, Hutcherson figures out a way to remain true to his Peeta throughout most of the movie.
Even though the acting is great, the movie suffers from being split in two. Like in the Harry Potter movies or in frequent Doctor Who series finales, this first part offers a lot of setup without a satisfying payoff.
It succeeds in creating the eerie atmosphere of the dystopian future and doesn’t shy away from some chilling imagery, making it clear that YA fiction can be dark on screen as well. However it struggles to keep the tension up the whole two hours. Mockingjay seemingly starts over again: explanations are given, people are introduced and new places are seen. After the very strong second part Catching Fire that was a well-paced adventure, it feels like a let-down. And unlike the other instalments, it doesn’t manage to stand on its own and can only be enjoyed with the knowledge of the past and prospect of a satisfying future.
Fans of the series should also enjoy this movie. It might not stand as a standalone movie, but as an integral part of the series it deserves to be judged at the end. For others it might be worthwhile for the performances and to be ready for the next and final part, Mockingjay- Part 2, in cinemas in 2015.