The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Katniss Everdeen is back to save the world – but hang on a minute, what’s this? Mockingjay Part 1?  Hollywood’s enslavement to mammon knows no bounds these days, what with Hobbits 1, 2 & 3– talk about sow’s purse from a silk ear  – not to mention the Star Warsindustry, and now this. Husband is extremely annoyed. The pity is that it renders a potentially enjoyable film (if you like that sort of thing, which I don’t particularly) into rather a damp squib.

As in Catching Fire, the director assumes a photographic memory of the last movie, so I spent the first 15 minutes completely confused as I had not re-read my previous review: here it is just to remind you of where we were. Luckily husband was on hand to explain that when Katniss fired her arrow into the dome and broke the canopy, thus killing the game, game-maker Plutarch Heavensbee helped her escape with fellow competitors Finnick  and Beetee. Peeta and the other tributes did not make it and were captured by President Snow.

But Katniss is now similarly enslaved, it would appear, in a creepy underworld ruled by the luminous Julianne Moore as President Coin, where people sleep in bunks and move around like automatons. It is the opposite of President Snow’s city of affluence and hi tech, but is it any better?  

Now surrounded by familiar faces including her mother and sister Prim, as well as fellow refugees – Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman), strongman Boggs (Mahershala Ali, fresh from House of Cards), Beetee, 13’s version of Q (Jeffrey Wright), daffy stylist Effie (Elizabeth Banks) and the lovable former victor and drunk, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) – Katniss is persuaded to become a Mockingjay, an emblem of revolution – ‘they will either want to kiss, kill you or be you’ – to lead the rest of the states in rebellion against Snow. But the deal is not without strings: Peeta and the other captive tributes must be rescued.

Clad in sleek black and with a quiverful of magic arrows slung fetchingly across her shoulder, she is ready to strut her stuff. As with any cynical PR venture, a film crew is on cue to film Katniss’s finest hour as she visits the ravaged cities of Panem, and witnesses more wanton destruction and mass murder. This provokes a marketable response form Katniss, who sings a stirring song, ‘The Hanging Tree’ to galvanise the people into defiance (and, yes, Lawrence really did song it). It also brings Katniss back to the attention of President Snow, portrayed as ever by a superb Donald Sutherland.

The trouble is by the end of Part 1, we wonder what is the point of stringing us along for two episodes? We have witnessed a humourless Katniss pining and whinging in a most unbecoming way for an increasingly unsympathetic Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), a brainwashed captive, looking even less attractive than usual. What starts off with some proper plot-building, brick by brick, of the making of a revolution, interspersed with some good banter between the natural comedians Plutarch and Effie, and some excellent CGI action scenes, soon deteriorates into a so-what technical and narrative flatness. Like Katniss we are forced into a ringside seat while some confusing ‘action’ takes place. This loss of direction is, I am afraid, the price of being too greedy.Without giving anything away, can I be bothered if I have to wait another year to know how they win? The only thing of interest is how they lose Philip Seymour Hoffman in Part 2. He was by far the best bit in the film.

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