The Hunger Games: Mockingjay brings (or starts to bring; the book has been split into 2 movies) my least favorite of the Hunger Games books to the big screen.
In this, the third book, we leave the games themselves behind, following Katniss’ rescue/kidnapping from the arena at the end of Catching Fire, and are brought into the wider world of Panem, where the seeds of rebellion inadvertently sowed when Katniss defied the capital in the first book/movie are starting to take root.
This is a war film, but one that focuses not only on the ‘exciting’ action of war, but also the more grounded aspects such as planning and, especially, propaganda. Indeed parts of the story are closer to boardroom drama than traditional action movie, and it is to the writers’ and directors’ credit that these potentially disparate scenes tie together cohesively.
Operating from a military installation under the ruins of District 13, the resistance movement needs a figurehead; clearly no-one is better suited to the task than the girl who unwittingly started it all, and so the resistance set to transforming Katniss into The Mockingjay; Panem’s answer to the figure on the “Your Country Needs You” posters.
By now, we’ve come to expect great acting in these movies, but in Mockingjay the cast have kicked it up a notch, with almost everyone bringing their A-Game, only Liam Hemsworth (Gale) suffers by comparison, being merely ‘fine’ in an otherwise truly outstanding cast.
Special mention must go to Elizabeth Banks, whose always amusing portrayal of Effie Trinket could so easily have been a cartoon character in less skilled hands, and to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman who is on fine, brilliantly understated, form reprising his role as former gamesmaker Pultarch Havensbee.
The big acting job here of course, belongs to Jennifer Lawrence; This, perhaps even more so than the previous films, is Katniss’ movie, and we are blessed to have a superb actress giving her all in the role; if this were a more ‘worthy’ film, The Mockingjay’s first big speech (the one following the bombing of a hospital) would have Miss Lawrence clearing space on her mantle for a second Oscar.
But please don’t think my love for this film comes wholly from my love of the cast; everyone else involved does their part to perfection; the movie sounds great, and looks perfect, setting the level between futuristic and bleak perfectly as each scene requires. One particularly good shot is of Katniss stepping on a skull during a visit to her now destroyed home district; for all the death and distraction around her, that one skull really drives home the horror, to character and audience alike.
I mentioned already that the 3rd Hunger Games book is my least favorite of the trilogy; but, so far at least, it is by far the one best suited to the big screen.
It isn’t perfect, of course, few films are, but the minor gripes and inconsistencies are so petty that it would be unfair to bring them up; in a lesser movie they wouldn’t even be noticed. In fact I have only one real complaint, one thing about this movie I can genuinely say I do not like; I have to wait a year for part two!
I miss my wigs.