THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): I was indeed sitting in fiery anticipation of this film, Vader. The third installment of Hunger Games picks right up where the second film left off. In the continuing story of Katniss Everdeen, we are closing in on the final curtain and it will either be the freedom of the oppressed, or their continued subjugation. Personally I’m hoping for the freedom, but wouldn’t the latter be one heck of a plot twist?
CASTING, DIRECTING & ACTING
AV: You know, it would, Pontificator. It might even make the franchise more compelling. Like all modern futuristic fantasy flicks of late, the cinematography of the Hunger Games movies is terrific. The visual effects are very good. And the cast is, well, all the usual suspects. J-Law brings her normal well-presented intensity to her Heroine. Woody (I still can’t jump) Harrelson joins all the pretty young faces to reprise their classic roles. The great Donald (President Snow) Sutherland and the late (and also great) Phillip Seymour Hoffman round out the super cast of Mockingjay, part 1. Surprisingly, Vienna-born Director Francis Lawrence (no relation to Jennifer) who has directed such sci-fi hits such as I Am Legend, Constantine and Catching Fire, tries like heck to bring a rather boring, calculated screenplay to a better place but to no avail. Thoughts Mr. P?
TP: All the usual suspects are back (as you have covered)… with some new faces added to the mix. Julianne Moore debuts as President Coin and delivers the role of a leader that doesn’t have all the answers, but seemingly knows when to take guidance in those times of ignorance. Mahershala Ali (from one of my all-time favorite television series, 4400) also debuts as the premier military man on the side of the people. Natalie Dormer (of Game of Thrones fame) introduces us to Cressida, a defector from the Capitol with a singular talent for film. Admittedly this film takes a different tone than the first two in the series, but the pace is still steady and the buildup to the final film is definitely palatable.
AV: Oh I wish I could agree, sir. Perhaps you are a more insightful movie watcher than I am. When it comes to SFX, the visual effects in this film are decent but the story is so muddled, I found it hard to simply sit-still and try to endure the onset of wrist-watching, yawning and the fluttering ever-heavier eyelids, For me, Mockingjay just never really took off. There is frighteningly little that can be called a visual effects in this film as everything simply feels like something I've seen in the past. Would you agree P-Man?
AV: What surprised me the most was how downright boring this film was. I watch a good number of films over the course off a year and they range from blockbusters to indie films and beyond. The film seemed to only set the stage for the next one. It served no viable storytelling purpose as the characters sort of saunter from scene to scene. Whats more, I have a ton of additional concerns that were left unanswered that leave this film hanging for me. First, no one else has called it out so I will; it is IMPOSSIBLE to bring down two advanced, state-of-the-art fighter jets with an explosive tip arrow. Could you do this to an F-35 or an F-22 Raptor? No. In one of the film’s three (yes, 3) action scenes, Katniss brings down two jet fighters with an arrow. Wha–!?
Here is the deeper issue for me. This film is targeted to young people (mostly young girls), tweens to early 20’s. This franchise speaks to political unfairness. The injustices the elite visit upon the downtrodden and social inequities of a violent caste system that forces young people to eviscerate each other for sport because the government “says so.” Are any of these young women even ‘getting’ this? Do they even care? Or is this just more “cool warrior chick” stuff like a Ripley, Sarah Connor or that dopey Twilight girl that has already faded from memory? And if not, why does this film series even bother?
And the dialogue, oh God. Listen old friend, I struggle as it is with many of this year’s films in this genre. The two Hercules films, Transformers 4, The Giver and Sin City 2. This has NOT been a stellar year for the spoken word onscreen for sci-fi flicks. This movie is no different. Katniss goes from refusing to be the voice/face of the rebellion to essentially “ok I’ll do it” inside of 20 just minutes. Here’s a hint Hollywood, we already knew she would agree. Please stop wasting our time. Help me out here, Pontificator, please tell me I'm on the wrong track.
AV: Unfortunately, the inane use of the term “Part 1” right in the title implies their are subsequent follow-up “parts.” (Sigh) That means we all have to sit through another 2+ hours of J-Law making more uninteresting speeches about rising up against the capitol, something no one in the world should even need to have to hear. The real depressing news is that we can likely expect more of the same in “Part 2.”
TP: We all know there is one more film set to drop to complete the series… in 2015, and I’m looking forward to it.
THE PONTIFICATOR rates Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1: With the film moving out of the arena and pulling up alongside real life, it had a different, but no less interesting, tone. The ideologies of right and wrong meet in the middle when the same tactics are used by both sides to advance their narrative, whatever it might be… which is why this film shoots down seven (7) busted blocks in the name of freedom.