By James Hancock November 22nd, 2014
Before I write anything about “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” I have to confess that until recently I had not been following the franchise. I read the first book a few years ago before the release of the first movie and decided it would be better if I just sit this one out. I completely appreciate the love and passion so many fans have for this series; I have similar feelings for movies made by Marvel, but the tone and style of the series I safely assumed at the time was not designed with a jaded thirty-something bald man’s sensibilities in mind. I’m completely obsessed with Jennifer Lawrence and I have been thrilled to see her enjoying such success with this franchise, but for me I prefer seeing her in the films of David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook” (2012) & “American Hustle (2013)) or kicking ass as Mystique in “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (2014). Fast forward to a few days ago, one of my co-hosts on the podcast Wrong Reel, Mikhail Karadimov, suggested that we not only see the new flick but also record an episode about it immediately afterward. I obediently did my homework and watched both “The Hunger Games” (2012) and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” (2013) in order to go into the latest installment fully armed with all the necessary info and lore to have the best chance of enjoying the flick.
All sarcasm aside, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” is the weakest movie of the series so far. Breaking the third book in the series into two movies was a colossal mistake from a storytelling perspective. If the Harry Potter and The Hobbit franchises have taught us anything it’s that diluting and decompressing stories for the sake of squeezing more ticket sales out of the audience has led to lackluster movies. The majority of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” deals with the propaganda war between the rebels in District 13 and President Snow. As part of the story, this would have been fine, but this media battle is really all this movie has to offer. Katniss Everdeen has only one moment in the movie where she gets to put her much-vaunted archery skills into play against the enemy. I’m sorry but seeing Katniss kicking ass is one of the only redeeming qualities of this series for me and if you take that away there’s nothing left. The love triangle between Katniss, Gale and Peeta is arguably the most sexless, celibate, lifeless romantic entanglement ever caught on screen. I know this is a movie for kids and I shouldn’t expect some raunchy sex scene but even back in the 1930s at the height of the censorship of the Hollywood Production Code, Hollywood managed to inject some love and emotion into their love affairs. Poor Liam Hemsworth has been trapped for the last 3 years inside the skin of Gale Hawthorne and I can only imagine the soul searching he has to do every time he sees his big bro dressed as Thor taking on alien armies, fighting the Hulk or putting the smackdown on dark elves and frost giants. The cast of the Hunger Games is awe inspiring but sadly they just are not given anything interesting to do. Criticizing the movie is a bit of a waste, however, in that the only thing that matters is whether or not the hardcore fans are happy. I have no idea if this movie will delight them or not but I would like to believe that even the most frenzied enthusiast privately will acknowledge in the back of their mind that nothing happens in this movie. I’m crossing my fingers that “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” will be an absolute barn-burner of a movie, but for now all my reservations about the series going back to when I first read “The Hunger Games” have proven to be true. “The Hunger Games” just isn’t for me.
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