Monday, 16 March 2015



One of the best aspects of this third (of four) films in the Hunger Games series is the near total absence of the Hunger Games. The games themselves were actually the least interesting sequences in the first two films, indeed there was much more meat in the political machinations and the detail of the social structures in which this frankly illogical fantasy future takes place. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 dispenses with the Battle Royale teen combat idea almost entirely, and it works well, rather in the same way that the later Harry Potter films were more interesting when taking place outside Hogwarts.

Being a midpoint entry in the series, the film has no proper opening. It assumes (in my case, wrongly) that you already know who everyone is, where they stand and what they represent, and picks up immediately from the end of Catching Fire, when Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is rescued from what’s left of the Games arena by the leaders of the rebellion and President Coin (Julianne Moore), seeking to use her as a figurehead for their propaganda. Her condition for helping them, for being the Mockingjay, is that Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is rescued from the Capitol and the evil forces of President Snow (Donald Sutherland)...

And because this is only part one of Mockingjay, the film doesn’t have a properly satisfying ending either. Instead, events conclude with a shocking twist rather than a natural ending, and the film all but closes with a “To Be Continued” caption.  That continuation isn’t due in British cinemas until November this year, so chances are I for one will have forgotten the exact details of how the story was left last time.

Given that this is a franchise I’ve no particular love for (I really don’t think the first film is up to much at all), I probably enjoyed this latest episode more than I’d expected.  It’s certainly well put together, it’s nice to see Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, (the late) Philip Seymour Hoffman and Woody Harrelson all returning as Caesar, Effie, Plutarch and Haymitch respectively (this really is a series that’s big on silly names), although much of the film takes place in the huge underground bunker so it feels like there’s more talk and less action than in the earlier films. This isn’t a bad thing: it’s nice to find the series maturing and deepening, and not merely repeating its previous highlights, just bigger.

So all in all it’s pretty good: for me it’s maybe not quite as enjoyable as Catching Fire as I miss the ludicrous excesses of the Capitol sequences, but it’s still well worth seeing although you probably need to be slightly more familiar with the characters than I was and willing to hang on another eight months for the thrilling conclusion.


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