Movie Review: ‘THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1’ Loses the Fire That It Previously Caught


Preston Barta // Editor

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 | 123 min. | Rated PG-13
Director: Francis Lawrence
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Willow ShieldsSam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks, Mahershala Ali, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright and Stanley Tucci

The last time we saw Jennifer Lawrence’s beloved Katniss Everdeen, she had just finished her second Hunger Games and had been rescued by the resistance to the domineering President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Now, we find Katniss in the hands of District 13, where they groom Katniss as their heroine against the ruthless, ruling Capitol. While this continuation of the story is engaging enough to ignite interest, there is a certain fatigue to the matter.

MOCKING JAY – PART 1 is a substandard follow-up to the spectacular CATCHING FIRE. There is not much to really see in PART 1; while it’s refreshing to have a change of scenery away from the killing arenas, the final destination leaves us with very little to appreciate and anticipate.

Everything about PART 1 looks and feels different (similar to David Fincher’s ALIEN³), a necessity to keep things moving and fresh, but one fraught with more problems than ever before. Very little happens in this movie, and what little the characters accomplish is mostly futile. To add insult to injury, the end credits very clearly mark the halfway point to a larger film. If you’re attempting to prove that the last book of a series needed to be split in two for the silver screen (or three if you’re Peter Jackson), then make sure each of those parts functions as its own film.

The late Philip Seymour Hoffman and Julianne Moore give MOCKINGJAY - PART 1 some watchability.

The late Philip Seymour Hoffman and Julianne Moore give MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 some watchability.

Fortunately, though, we still have Jennifer Lawrence, and that alone is enough to keep the audience awake. Her charm and drive proves to be the strongest asset of this franchise, and she (along with more screen-time from Philip Seymour Hoffman) save PART 1 from being the ultimate disaster.

With PART 1, you’re left with a lot of big talks and even more mawkish moments. The action, tension and energy that made the first two installments worthy of your attention are all practically nonexistent here. Like the novel, there are no actual Hunger Games, and the only attempt at suspense is a scene that feels overwrought and difficult to comprehend due to the overall darkness of the film – visually, that is.

In the end, there is no sense of anticipation for the next installment. Nonetheless, PART 2 promises to offer more gripping action and drama, which ought to be something to look forward to.

MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 opens tonight.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.