The next report card is for the third installment of the series The Hunger Games entitled The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1—directed by Francis Lawrence; written by Peter Craig (screenplay), Danny Strong (screenplay), Suzanne Collins (adaptation); starring Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen), Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark), Liam Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne), Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy), Donald Sutherland (President Snow), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Plutarch Heavensbee), Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket) and Julianne Moore (President Alma Coin).
Is it bad that I want President Snow to win and I'm rooting for him? Does that make me a terrible person? Of course, if this were reality, that wouldn't be the case, but I like his character more than pretty much anyone else.
Natalie Dormer and her film crew were pretty bland and for the most part, so was everyone else. I do like that Gale had some more time to be worth a damn instead of just some guy in the background, but I feel as though his true time won't come until the second half. I'm digging Jeffrey "Q" Wright and I'm missing the interaction between Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) and the noticeably absent Claudius Templesmith (Toby Jones).
Maybe I'm being a bit harsh, but I felt this was lacking some pizazz. Jennifer Lawrence was pretty wooden this time around. There's nothing that makes me feel as though she is the only person that could bring the Katniss character to life. Ironically enough, part of the film discusses this lack of enthusiastic acting in reference to Katniss herself. I do think Lawrence is overrated, but a good actress nonetheless, so it was disappointing to see what felt like a phoned-in performance.
The same applies to almost everyone else, too. Liam Hemsworth is just slightly sad and brooding. Josh Hutcherson just looks scared (except for the very last shot). Woody Harrelson isn't as fun as he was before, nor is Elizabeth Banks. This is maybe the first time that I didn't think Philip Seymour Hoffman was a creepy bastard, so he pulled off being on the heroic side and deserves a pat on the back. I was curious as to how they would get around his death, but didn't catch anything odd. Julianne Moore is someone I'm on the fence about. While I have nothing specifically positive to mention about her performance, that's not to say that I have negative things, either.
Essentially, this boils down to everyone being serviceable but not special.
VISUALS (FX, MAKEUP, COSTUMES, SETS): B+
There were a few times where things looked a bit hazy to me. Granted, this might have been the screen itself that I was watching it on, but I would assume that would have translated to it happening more often and not just in some more complicated shots (such as Katniss exiting the jet). Some points are deducted for that.
However, everything else looked solid. Nothing felt out of place and fake. I couldn't really tell where the CGI blended in with the sets, so that's always a positive.
Side note: the outfit Katniss wore was definitely a step down from the previous films. Yes, I know that the story dictates that, but while that's not the reason I saw the film, anyone who was hoping for a similar scene will be disappointed in its absence. No cool fire effects this time around.
MUSIC & SOUND: B+
The big takeaway from the music side of things is Jennifer Lawrence's rendition of "The Hanging Tree". I mean, hell, it's used as an influential part of the film's plot itself and not just supplemental to the audience beyond the fourth wall. It's a catchy song that gets stuck in your head and definitely pulls off being a sort of depressed caged bird song.
I'm not a technical expert on sound design, but if there were any cracks in the seam, I didn't notice them. Everything felt up to par. Unlike with Interstellar, I could hear everything everyone was saying at all times.
Outside of that, the score wasn't really memorable, nor was it bothersome, but pretty straightforward down the middle.
TONE (ACTION, ROMANCE, COMEDY): A-
After the events of the last film, we knew things would be bleak. They kept that going, as they should have. There were a couple of chuckles along the way, but nothing to distract you from the reality of the situation and take you out of the moment too much. War and rebellion isn't fun—it's the suffering that comes before the breath of fresh air. This needed to be dark and more depressing than anything else and it pulled it off. I could see some people complaining about that, wanting it to be a more upbeat movie because they were looking for the distraction, but if that was the main thing you were looking for, you should have gone to see Big Hero 6 instead. As far as the romance side of things goes, I like how it is being teased that Katniss has feelings for both Gale and Peeta. Personally, I'm rooting for Peeta to come out on top in the end (no pun intended).
FINAL GRADE: B-
I originally went into this series a bit reluctantly, watching the first film a year after it had been released in preparation for watching Catching Fire, but I'm glad that I decided to give it a shot. The series is entertaining and a much better alternative to something like Divergent. I'm a bit stingy with my money and I wouldn't have been too happy with putting out $10 to see something that didn't deliver, but I was overall pleased with it and I'm glad I saw it today instead of waiting for it to come out on DVD or any alternative. I'd suggest you do the same.
Stay tuned for our next Reviewpoint podcast where we break the film's hits and misses down in a roundtable discussion!