Leaves you hungry for more
What’s better than making money with one film? Making money with two. The Hunger Games franchise seems to have taken serious note of other franchises like Harry Potter and Twilight in splitting the final book of the series, Mockingjay, into two films. You know even before the film begins that Mockingjay – Part 1 will just act as a setup for the big, bad confrontation in the last film, much like Deathly Hallows – Part 1 did. You know that the first film, by definition, will contain more dialogues than action set pieces, and as the film shows, this is not to the advantage of Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), the face of the revolution and a person who looks comfortable taking down a fighter plane but is all at sea when delivering a staged speech.
Why must that be a bad thing though? The totalitarian oppression of Panem is, after all, so much more than the personal problems of Katniss, as she realises at the very beginning when she surveys the ruins of District 12, her erstwhile home. Mockingjay, the book, with its overemphasis on the love triangle (Katniss, Peeta and Gale), failed to understand this. Mockingjay Part 1 gets it just right, as it doesn’t devote as much screen space to Katniss’ frustrating romantic conundrums.
There are plenty of tasteful little touches in this film. When Katniss, initially reluctant to be the face of the revolution, suffers a change of heart, you realise it’s bad news for President Snow. Sure enough, the introduction scene where his beard is being groomed shows him bleeding a bit. In another scene, Effie Trinket, who gets Katniss all dressed up to look convincing as a revolutionary, summarises the influence that the ‘girl on fire’ will have on Panem: “They will want to kiss you, kill you… or be you.” You get a feeling that this film is more a continuation of the last, Catching Fire, than one that stands on its own merits.
Perhaps as an allusion to that, Katniss, all menace and rage, hisses at President Snow on video: “Fire is catching. If we burn, you burn with us.” When Katniss and Gale go hunting in District 13, they find that a wild animal in the forest shows little fear in the face of danger. “They have never been hunted before,” says Gale. The line opens itself up for multiple interpretations. It is these poignant moments, like when the injured in District 7 display their love and support for Katniss with the three-finger salute, that make this film. You wonder if such scenes would have been possible had the final book been compressed into one film. Wouldn’t it have been a case of little development and a lot of action?
Despite not being a great standalone film (unlike its two prequels), Mockingjay Part 1, like a rebel in the revolution, fulfils its purpose of being a crucial cog in the wheel of this franchise — unimportant by itself but invaluable in the group. There are plenty of baits to get you back. The Capitol, capital city of Panem and a place of prosperity and wealth, has been literally drained of colour. Snow’s sly little plan, his poisonous scheme, has failed. Also, there seems something wrong with Peeta. Meanwhile, the leader of the rebels, Alma Coin (a brilliant Julianne Moore), is beginning to look fishy, explaining perhaps the reason for her unusual last name. Every coin, after all, has two sides. The stage gets set for the final part. To quote a line from its first film, “Let the games begin.”