The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

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Hunger Games PHOTOI remember getting a letter from somebody that was furious when I gave a bad review to the second to the last Harry Potter film. I claimed it was boring, and lame that the studio made two pictures out of the last story. I’m afraid I might upset the fans of this series by making the same complaint.

Jennifer Lawrence, who I found to be much tougher and more interesting in Winter’s Bone, plays Katniss Everdeen in a way that feels forced. Her love doesn’t seem genuine, and the scenes in which she cries doesn’t work. One example of all this is when they have to film videos to inspire everyone in the other Districts. She has a green screen behind her and needs to act furious, but she has trouble pulling it off. Philip Seymour Hoffman snaps at her (the first time I’ve ever seen him in a scene that didn’t feel authentic), until Woody Harrelson trots out giving us one of many scenes of exposition passing as dialogue. Not sure who has more of those types of lines between those two, or Jeffrey Wright, who is Beetee – the wheelchair genius who is helping to hack into the Capitol’s computer system.

President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is the perfect villain, but at this point, we’ve seen it all before (and in better films). The story has him trying to stop Katniss, who is in District 13 hunkered down with other rebels. Their leader is President Alma Coin. It’s the first role I’ve seen Julianne Moore play where she was stiff. I thought of how much I loved her and Hoffman in their first film together – Boogie Nights.

District 4’s Finnick (Sam Claflin) is also here. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) though, is at the Capitol. He’s making his own series of public service announcements – but is he doing it of his own free will, or is President Snow torturing and brainwashing him? I didn’t know and didn’t care. The whole thing was so dull.

There are a few powerful scenes. Katniss, now being called “Mockingjay,” shows up at different districts and looks at the death and destruction caused by the Capitol. This makes her announcements more powerful, and in one scene where she breaks out into song. It’s done rather well and reminiscent of a spiritual you might hear slaves singing.

Stanley Tucci, again playing the slimy Caesar Flickerman character, adds nothing. He interviews Peeta at various times, which gives us at least four scenes of Katniss looking at the screening crying, and whispering, “Peeta!”

Elizabeth Banks plays Elfie Trinket, and she brings nothing to the picture of interest. Jena Malone is Johanna Mason. I don’t even remember the character (which was an addition from the last movie).

This movie has three Oscar winners, and none of them seems to have the acting chops in this picture. The most disappointing of the three is Lawrence. Aside from a few scenes, she just wasn’t up to the task.

Perhaps if I had read the books, I’d understand why Katniss is so in love with Peeta in this. I remember in the previous ones, it was Gayle (Liam Hensworth). Who can blame her? His brother was just named “sexist man alive” and he’s arguably the better looking of the two. Perhaps the novel had more detailed interaction between these characters, and the reader can see why she loves Peeta, instead of just protecting him the way she did in the Hunger Games.

The politics involved in what goes on in this story could’ve been interesting, but it’s a weak script. The special effects aren’t even that great.

What we basically have is…a 45 minute movie that was given filler to make a two hour picture that’s a cliffhanger for people waiting to conclude the series.

It’s a shame that, in the year we get Philip Seymour Hoffman in an amazing performance in A Most Wanted Man – the last thing I see him do is going through the motions in this motion picture.

1 ½ stars out of 5.