With the rebellion against President Snow’s Capital in full effect, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and other wildly named characters join together underground in attempt to unite the majority of the districts together to overthrow the oppressive dystopian regime. Mockingjay – Part I is just that: half of a film. Most every dead-horse criticism aimed in that regard rings true, as it is painfully clear that Suzanne Collins’ final novel required no 4-hour epic. Fortunately, director Francis Lawrence brings wit and weight to the affair.
President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) commands a substantial rebellion. She and Plutarch Heavensbee (Phillip Seymour Hoffman in one of his final roles) set their sights on Katniss to be their “Mockingjay:” a beacon of hope for the revolution – an icon of propaganda. Much of Part I is focused politically, giving it a jarring feel in comparison to the previous saga installments. Gone are the slick and totalitarian Hunger Games filled to the brim with electric action sequences peppered with romance. This is a war drama, if anything. In a way Mockingjay spoofs itself (and the recent influx of Dystopian Young Adult pictures), with Coin and Heavensbee often coming across as puppeteers not dissimilar to the tyrannical President Snow. Moore imbues the character with a passionate sincerity, and Plutarch’s intentions seem admirable as well, but Katniss seems struck by the cross fire between the two struggling sides, grasping for identity and still recoiling from apparent PTSD. Jennifer Lawrence is again strong in the role, handling moments threatening to devolve into theatrics convincingly.
I admire Francis Lawrence’s film. It is very likely that the choice to split the final novel into a two-parter wasn’t his decision, and he does his job well, staging grittier action scenes without the tentativeness of the first two and deftly handling the weighty political subtext. District 13’s rebellion features several blunt attack sequences, giving the film a bite and satiating action die-hards simultaneously. The bulk of Part I, however, is a propaganda war. A brilliant scene depicts Katniss standing in front of a would-be green screen, quiver on her back, emptily delivering gung-ho dialogue while Heavensbee “directs.” It rings completely false, but Katniss is recorded out in the field, where the real damage is done, visibly invested emotionally. Heavensbee edits the footage into a video clip eerily similar to a trailer for The Hunger Games, and other films like it.