Before I begin my review of this movie I just want to point out that if you ever attend a midnight premiere screening of a movie, don’t go out for drinks beforehand. It truly doesn’t end well, and though you may think that it’d wake you up for the movie, it does quite the opposite actually.
Also, if you have not read Mockingjay, or seen the film and do not wish to be spoiled about either (as this review also contains spoilers for the entire book, not just the first half of it) then I highly suggest you do not read on!
(You’ve been warned….)
I’ve seen this movie twice since it’s release on November 21st, 2014. As I’ve already mentioned I attended a midnight premiere screening at Crown Casino in Melbourne, and went again the following week. I’d originally planned to write my review for this movie as soon as possible after seeing it for the first time, but that didn’t exactly happen so I had to watch it another time to refresh my memory on any small details. I’ve watched and read many reviews about this movie, all of them mostly positive and endearing ones, and I have to agree. Not only did this movie meet my expectations as an adaptation, but it also blew my mind as an avid movie-lover. I must give credit to every single person involved in the making of this movie, particularly because they didn’t have all that much source material to work with. The book Mockingjay, though wonderful in the second half, is definitely a little slow in the beginning, and unfortunately it stays that way throughout the whole of the first half. Also, as the book is told through Katniss’ perspective, the audience is extremely limited to her opinion(s) only. However, the directors and producers (and everyone else) did a fantastic job in widening this scope so that we saw a lot more in the movie that wasn’t as fleshed out in the books. As has been discussed in many of the reviews that I’ve taken note of, this movie has sadly been mistaken as boring when in actuality, the pacing of the film just happened to be a bit slower. Many other major movie adaptations that have been split into multiple parts (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Breaking Dawn and even The Hobbit), have typically seen the first instalment centre around plot-establishing, world-building and the growth of a rebellion, and Mockingjay was no different. A lot of this movie had to be dedicated to this, and it had to be done well, as so much happens in the second half of the book that without a solid foundation within the first movie the second movie would suffer for it. Yes, it can be argued that the second half of the book is extremely rushed and unexplained, but following tradition for the rest of the Hunger Games movie, I fail to believe that the movie makers will let us down when it’s translated on screen.
I re-read Mockingjay several days before seeing the movie the first time, which (for me) was a fantastic idea. I hadn’t read it in more than two years and had forgotten almost every single detail. Of course I remembered the major plot points but a lot of the finer things had escaped my memory. I didn’t re-read the book too close to seeing the movie so I wasn’t too critical in whatever was left out or changed, which overall ensured that I had a great movie experience. Some of the particular things that I loved include:
– Beetee’s advanced knowledge of the Capitol’s networking system. I think Beetee is such an under-rated character throughout the series, and his efforts towards the rebellion are highly under-appreciated. Beetee literally fuelled the rebellion by hacking into each district’s, and even the Capitol’s networks. Without Beetee none of the propos would have aired across the nation and the rebellion that builds throughout the movie would not exist. Not only is he an essential member of the Mockingjay team, but he is an incredible asset to the rebel movement.
– Districts 8 and 13 bombings (particularly Gale and Katniss’ archery sequence). These were two of the most powerful scenes in the movie, and really showed the extent to which the Capitol were willing to go to maintain their power and repress the rebellion. The attack on the innocent and wounded patients in the hospital of District 8 was the first instance where we got to see Katniss’ motivation to lead the rebel movement. Her direct message to President Snow shortly thereafter was also extremely powerful, and translated almost word to word from the scene in the book. You really get to see the amount of damage and death outside of what is seen in Districts 12 and 13 alone, which reinforces to the audience that this isn’t just a problem for a part of the population, but for every single person. That was also shown in District 13, when the Capitol bombed the underground district too. The sound and visual effects in this scene truly made it what it was, and the overall experience of the scene was so unbelievably surreal that at times during it I felt like I was in the midst of danger too. The shaking of the underground bunker, the distress signal, the emergency water sprinkles and the visible distress of the residents of District 13 made it very realistic. All of the credit too goes to every actor in this scene who took us along on that journey with them.
– Natalie Dormer as Cressida, which is arguably one of the best casting choices in this entire franchise.
– The Hanging Tree song, composed by The Lumineers for the film. This was an absolutely breath-taking addition to the movie, and one that I’m sure many people who have seen it are still reeling over. In almost every review that I’ve watched or read this was one of the topmost and most noticeable aspects of the film, which I can’t help but agree with also. Not only was this song chilling right down to the bone, but it also had a very strong sense of empowerment. This song tied in to the scenes of Katniss’ effects on the rebellions in Districts 7 and 5, and coupled with the epic displays of martyrdom and sacrifice, this song left everyone in the audience feeling inspired.
– The inclusion of Effie Trinket, in replacement of Katniss’ preparation team (i.e. Octavia, Flavius and Venia). Elizabeth Banks portrays the character of Effie Trinket so unbelievably well that it was sad to think that her character wouldn’t make as big an appearance in Mockingjay as she has in the previous films. However, replacing her for Katniss’ prep team was such a fantastic choice. As the first installment to the conclusion of this epic journey, Mockingjay Part I doubtlessly had to be sombre, a little bit depressing and very moving but with Effie’s character we gained those few glorious moments of comedic relief. She not only had her usual elegant Capitol grace but in the midst of the militaristic District 13, well… she didn’t exactly fit in all that well.
– Peeta’s promos had to be the most heart-breaking moments throughout the movie. Although Peeta only had very minimal screen time, the impact that he had on the audience and the characters too, was much more significant. If you were to line up the development of his character, at the beginning you would see a very confused, emotionless boy captured by the Capitol to become a weapon against the rebellion. However, by the end Peeta is nothing more than broken parts and a damaged soul. The escalation of his injuries is great, but what the Capitol does to his mind and to his good-natured spirit is much greater of a loss. In the first movie Peeta is the innocent soul, the selfless boy who gave anything and everything to his closest companions but by Mockingjay Part I… he’s as much of a victim as Katniss is, if not more of one.
That didn’t mean though that there were things that I wished were in the movie that had been left out or changed. There were certain things that I wished had been included in the movie, or parts of the movie that could have been improved (in my own opinion of course):
– I wish the destruction and bombing of District 12 had been shown through a flashback, not merely explained by an emotional Gale at the destroyed site
– More of a focus on Finnick’s distress/psychological condition/deteriorating mental state
– More of a focus on Katniss and memories of her father
– Less inclusion of Gale and Prim, who were major characters within the book (particularly Gale) though they were not portrayed as so in the movie
I loved so many aspects of this movie, but if I had to highlight one in particular it would be the relationship between different characters. While I was re-reading the book I felt much more of a connection to Katniss, but also to others such as Gale, Finnick and Prim. This translated extremely well in the movie, especially that between Katniss and Peeta and Katniss and Prim. Finnick was also a spectacular stand out, and you could really sympathise with his situation in the film. His desire to see Annie again is reflected in Katniss’ own despair in losing Peeta to the Capitol, and the two really connect throughout the film over their losses. They come to help each other out through their grief and their mental devastation, which is a really important aspect of the books that was portrayed wonderfully. Even though I’m overall a little disappointed with the lack of Katniss/Finnick relationship (as it is much more comedic and sweet in the book), overall their interactions were a great asset to the film. In the second installment though I would love to see their relationship develop a little bit more, and flesh out that between Katniss and Boggs, as well as Katniss and Coin. As a manipulative and deceitful character, Coin isn’t portrayed that way in the first film as a way to trick the audience into sympathising with her and the cause of District 13. However, for those of us who have read the book we know that her entire dynamic changes in the second half, and that her relationship with Katniss soon becomes strained and dangerous. This is somewhat similar to Boggs, though we find out that he truly does like Katniss and wants her to lead the rebellion as the Mockingjay. Boggs is mostly a stern faced, serious character but we do come to see his sympathetic side and his determination, which will be great to see in the second half of this film where he and Katniss’ team/troop are lead out into the Capitol’s streets.
I want to conclude this post by sharing with you all some of things that I’m expecting (and wishing) to happen in the second installment of Mockingjay. Also in this list are some of the things I would like to see introduced, or would like to see expanded on:
– Finnick and Annie’s wedding
– ‘Real or not real’? I don’t need to explain this do I?
– The introduction of ‘Tigris’, the cooky clothing store owner in the Capitol who houses Katniss, Peeta, Gale and the team near the very end. This comes shortly before the final battle scene between the rebels and the Capitol, and tying in to this I would absolutely love to see the conversation between Gale and Peeta that occurs in the book to be translated on screen. It’s pretty important to the dynamic of the ‘love triangle’ but I would understand how the producers may decide to leave it out. Nevertheless, I hope to see it in there.
– The final scenes of Mockingjay Part II are already going to be epic and heart-breaking enough but what would it be without that final bombing? I know, I know guys, it’s going to hurt to see but we can all get through this okay? As a monumentally significant part of the book this scene will be crucial to how the rest of the movie plays out, especially how a select few characters are portrayed in those final minutes.
– The death of President Snow. Now, as with many character death’s in the book, they’re extremely rushed and unexplained, and President Snow’s is no different either. Snow dies in a pretty horrific way and how Suzanne Collins describes the entire ordeal is rather graphic, so it’ll be interesting to see how his death scene will play out.
– A last hunger games?
– It’s already been confirmed that the book’s epilogue will be included in the movie, though I’m skeptical as to how it will be done. I’ve read some rumours that the scenes have already been done and the movie is entirely complete but I’ve also read others where the directors have supposedly decided to shoot the epilogue scenes early on during 2015. Now I’m not too sure what’s going on with that but nevertheless we’re getting an epilogue, and I don’t need to pray for a good one. As long as that last line is in there somehow I’ll be satisfied.
OVERALL RATING: ★★★★.5
Mockingjay Part II? Let the countdown begin!