The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, film review: Fails to combine its dystopian elements with the demands of the teen action movie

It doesn’t help that the film ends so abruptly, leaving us in limbo until the story is properly rounded off next year

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The Independent Culture

It would surely have made more sense to release Mockingjay as a single feature rather than split it into two.

Part 1 matches its predecessors in terms of performance and production values, but still feels like half a movie.

This is an even darker drama than the previous films. Much of it is set in the murky, subterranean world of District 13, where Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has been taken by the rebels. They want her to be the poster girl for the revolution they are busy fomenting against the Capitol’s white-bearded dictator President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

Lawrence is again tremendous as Katniss, conveying the character’s vulnerability and doubt as well as her fiery determination and Barbarella-like sex appeal. She’s pining for Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), her fellow Hunger Games survivor who has fallen into Snow’s clutches and has seemingly been brainwashed or tortured into becoming a spokesperson for the nation of Panem. District 13’s steely president Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) is fighting back against Snow, with Katniss as her chief propaganda weapon.

Director Francis Lawrence isn’t afraid to include grim imagery of war. The film feels more grown up than its predecessors. Redoubtable character actors like the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, Moore, Woody Harrelson, Jeffrey Wright and Stanley Tucci bring a gravitas and wit to the project that counters the callow performances of some of the younger actors.

What the series has never been able to resolve is how to combine its dystopian elements with the demands of the teen action movie. It doesn’t help, either, that the film ends so abruptly, leaving us in limbo until the story is properly rounded off next year.

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