‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1’ (FILM REVIEW)

[rating=4.00]

Look, Hollywood, can we talk?

This is getting to be ri-goddamn-diculous. This trend of splitting the final entry of a beloved franchise into two movies is a dangerous pit, and you’ve fallen into it. It was sort of understandable with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Coming in almost 900 pages, the book certainly did pack in the detail and the excitement, and I can understand why doing this might be considered the “right move.” You got away with it that time.

Then you did it again with Twilight: Breaking Dawn; we accepted that, too, even though the book was slightly shorter, at around 750 pages. Lessened density (and general vapidity) aside, that’s no quick read. What it might lack in depth, it made up in heft. And, really, I suppose no one could blame you for the obvious cashing in on the millions of dumbfounded, lust-crazed teenage girls who all, somehow, fell in love with this trite “saga.”

But you’ve really pushed it this time, Hollywood, and the result ruins Mockingjay.

Oh, sure, it’s mostly pretty good; Jennifer Lawrence once again shines as the beleaguered Katniss Everdeen, who is fresh off the dramatic ending to the Quarter Quell games featured in Catching Fire. Now in the hands of the rebels located in the forgotten District 13, she’s pushed to not only join but become the symbol of the growing revolution. Taking her place as “The Mockingjay”, Katniss inspires a nation of people to rise up and break the chains of the oppressive President Snow (Donald Sutherland, who also shines in a particularly terrifying performance).

Like I said, it’s pretty good. But that’s also the problem: Instead of a great movie, you’ve delivered us half of a solid movie. And yes, you can justify it all you want, Hollywood, but you still only gave us half a movie.

You can hide behind the party line of “maintaining the integrity” of the book all you’d like, but it doesn’t add up. While that excuse worked for Deathly Hallows and Breaking Dawn, it simply doesn’t fly here. For starters, the book you’re basing your movie(s) on only comes in at 390 pages. Breaking the movie version of a book that’s pushing 1,000 pages is one thing, but this doesn’t even hit half of that. Also, hilariously, the book this movie’s predecessor was based on is, in fact, one page longer than the book that inspired Mockingjay.

I don’t mean to sound like a petulant, “the book is so much better than the movie” pedant. But splitting the movie into two parts kind of ruins the experience. For one thing, narratively, Mockingjay is such a departure from the original two entries; in a very real way, those books are merely prologue for this book, and delaying the payoff is cheap and disappointing. Also, the increased attention to minor events ruins the pacing of the story and wholly disrupts the flow.

Additionally, you had to pull a contrived – and ultimately unsatisfying – climax and denouement from the middle of the fucking story. This turns Part One, as worth watching as it might be, into little more than an elaborate trailer for next year’s Part Two. Even despite the terrific performances, fantastic set design, intriguing direction, and wonderful actualization of the world of both Panem and District 13, it adds up to an overall underwhelming cinematic experience.

There’s a fine line between leaving your audience wanting more and leaving them unsatisfied, Hollywood, and you’ve crossed that line this time. Your meddling ways and clear-cut cash-grabbing turned what could have been – should have been – a single great movie into two OK movies. But I suppose that’s the nature of the beast, isn’t it? Why deliver one terrific product when you can deliver two mediocre products and make twice the money? Capitalism works, I guess, even if your system is broken. You’ve tricked us all into paying for the same movie twice, and we’ve accepted it as “just the way it is.” Well done, Hollywood.

But the implications here are truly worrying. The more we accept the two-part finale, the closer we get to turning the next “trilogy” into a six-part event. Does that sound extreme? Maybe it does, but so does the idea of turning a book that doesn’t even crack page 400 into a two-part movie just to increase your profit margin.

So while you might, in all fairness, rightfully deserve 8 stars, I cannot in good conscience bestow you such high marks. You’ve only given me half a movie; it only feels fair that I give you half a rating.

You can have the rest in a year.

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