‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1’

Well, that title’s a mouthful. I’ve spent a long time mocking the next Superman film for its title (and even know I can’t bring myself to type it all) but the third film in this particular YA franchise has managed to escape my ire. Maybe it’s due to a stronger degree of previous investment in the series. Maybe I just forgot about the amount of punctuation required and have just been calling it Mockingjay. Any reason is possible.

Either way, our university’s student cinema is showing the film for a whole fortnight and, ever grateful for an excuse not to schlep all the way into town, we decided to take a Friday night trip to see it. I’ve actually managed to avoid seeing all trailers and the publicity by some incredible feat, so beyond a knowledge of the book I wasn’t entirely sure what I was in for. Staggeringly, I managed to be surprised about how dark it was. The majority of the film is set in inside, and it carries through it a sense of claustrophobia and horror that’s hard to shake. When there are some scenes set in the outside world, they shock you – not in terms of their tone, but for the sudden burst of colour hitting your retinas. In terms of its tone, too, it is one of the more horrifying films I have seen over the whole year – there are people gunned down all over the place, friends turning on one another, tales of physical and sexual abuse…all in a 12A. It is astonishing.

The film is also able to boast stunning performances from all of its cast members. Everyone constantly raves about Jennifer Lawrence, and it’s not without good reason. For a substantial part of the film, she is the sole focus of both the camera and the narrative, and there was no moment when I felt bored of watching her. In fact, there’s a scene where her performance reduced me to a bit of a wreck. Of course, her performance isn’t the only one worth mentioning – Julianne Moore is a fantastic Coin, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman is wonderful, and Sam Claflin is great, to name but a few.

However, the film is a bit…well, if you’ve read the book, you’ll know precisely what I mean by saying it feels slightly unsatisfying in the long run. I’m a big fan of people in rooms talking to one another, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere. The frustration that this adaptation is two parts rather than one isn’t quashed, and the more I think about it, the more disappointed I am. It feels depressing that this is the way series seem to be going, and honestly, in this franchise there doesn’t seem to be any reason for it other than financial. Once again we’re left with the Harry Potter problem – a Part 1 where not a lot happens, and Part 2 which is¬†JUST action. I actually prefer the first part of HP7 (controversially) but I don’t think a similar response¬†will be the case with this after the release of the next film. A day later, and I’m feeling more than slightly unsatisfied – and wondering whether I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself more seeing one of the other films out this week.

I have lots of good things to say about Mockingjay – Part 1, of course I do. It’s a ballsy 12A certificate film aimed at a young audience, and isn’t afraid of showing them all manner of horrors. But I’m left thinking that I would have much rather have waited a longer time, and spent more money on, a ticket to see a final film in a fantastic trilogy. And I think that might be what I remember in a few weeks.

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