The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One
The For- Everdeen War
Release Date: 16 March
2014 | 12 | Blu- ray/ DVD Director: Francis Lawrence Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore
It seems unfair
– and inaccurate – to keep pigeonholing The Hunger Games as a Young Adult franchise. Sure, the series’ original target market was teenagers, but Katniss Everdeen’s fight to liberate Panem from President Snow and his Capitol cronies wouldn’t have pulled in billions of dollars at the box office if it didn’t have rather broader appeal. As if to prove the point, Mockingjay – Part One is where the series grows up, a movie that deals with adult themes while packing one hell of an emotional punch.
This may be The Hunger Games without any actual games, but you never feel there’s anything missing from the mix. What’s lost in terms of visceral, high- concept fights to the death is made up for by an increased feeling of gritty verisimilitude. The people in the oppressed Districts outside the Capitol are desperately struggling for their freedom, and in this third movie you get a sense of why they’re prepared to risk their lives fighting back.
Katniss herself has not emerged from two rounds of Games unscathed. With fellow survivor Peeta being held captive by Snow, she’s emotionally bruised by her experiences, and a more interesting character for it – after all, a reluctant hero is always more compelling than a fearless, gung- ho one.
Relocated to the militarised bunker of the free District 13, she’s way further out of her comfort zone than she ever was in the Games. Here she’s a political pawn, manipulated by the resistance into becoming the Mockingjay, the face of a propaganda war. It’s a role she’s completely unsuited to – her acting in “propo” films is hilariously bad – and it’s only when she gets out into the field, reacting to the atrocities committed by Snow’s forces ( this is a guy who’ll happily bomb a hospital), that the Mockingjay starts to sing.
Jennifer Lawrence is as brilliant as ever in the lead role, and the only reason she doesn’t steal the show is that she’s surrounded by some phenomenal acting talent – the sort of names ( Julianne Moore, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) who have traditionally been in the mix come Oscar season. Donald Sutherland’s President Snow, meanwhile, has evolved into one of the great movie villains of recent years. He plays the dictator with a mix of glee and evil menace – he’s like a kid pulling wings off a fly as he toys with the resistance, and the pleasure he takes in his game of Katniss- and- mouse makes him all the more chilling.
Splitting the final Hunger Games in two also feels like a good idea. If Katniss’s evolution into propaganda tool had just been the first act of an all- action finale, carefully judged character beats and the sense of a world on the cusp of rebellion would have been lost. Of course, the unfortunate consequence is that this first half of Mockingjay is comprised of nothing but middle, lacking no discernible beginning or end. It’s that lack of structure that prevents the movie scaling the heights of its predecessors, but by now it’s clear that the filmmakers are so comfortable with the material that Part Two should be one hell of a closing act to the saga.
A movie that deals with adult themes while packing one hell of an emotional punch
Extras: Few new releases get a bonus package this comprehensive. On the Blu- ray ( rated) the centrepiece is “The Mockingjay Lives: The Making Of
Mockingjay Part One” ( 134 minutes), an epic, seven- part doc that runs for longer than the movie, and tells you pretty much everything you could ever want to know about it. Loads of stars, director Francis Lawrence, producer Nina Jacobson and a bunch of behind- the- scenes tech talent discuss everything from splitting Suzanne Collins’s final novel to designing the vast underground bunkers of District 13 – and Effie Trinket’s mascara. In fact, it’s so relentlessly packed that at times you’re left feeling it could have been cut back by half an hour or so and still covered the key bases.
The first of the nine deleted scenes essentially amounts to Katniss walking through a corridor, but fortunately it’s not an indicator of what’s to come – much of the 11 minutes of excised material here could have happily remained in the movie, particularly anything involving Donald Sutherland. It’s a shame that Francis Lawrence and Nina Jacobson don’t continue their comprehensive feature commentary into the deleted scenes to explain why they were snipped.
Other bits and pieces include the cast paying tribute to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman in the touching “Straight From The Heart” ( 11 minutes), Kiwi singer Lorde explaining how she curated the soundtrack in “Songs Of Rebellion” ( eight minutes), her music vid for theme tune “Yellow Flicker Beat”, and a sneak peek at Divergent sequel
Insurgent ( four minutes). DVD buyers just get the commentary, the deleted scenes, and the Insurgent preview. Richard Edwards
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