It is difficult to review films from series like “Hunger Games,” “Twilight” or “Harry Potter,” because the entries tend to be of similar content and quality. The primary audiences care more about accurate adaptations of the books than about good movies.
“Mockingjay – Part 1” gives people who liked the first two “Hunger Games” films the accurate and safe adaptations they have come to expect, so can you blame it for not giving more than that?
I read and enjoyed the books, but wanted to see interpretations of the books more than duplications. This holds true for “Mockingjay,” the book with the sloppiest story structure in the trilogy. Would it be so wrong to fix problems in the novel rather than to blindly duplicate them? This is dually bad because “Mockingjay” has been split into two films, making the narrative arc more frustrating than the book.
This is not to say “Mockingjay” is a bad movie. The fact that so much is great is why the structure and pacing are so upsetting. Jennifer Lawrence gives her best performance of the series adding a pleasant level of vulnerability she did not have in previous outings. The highlight is when she sings, using her own voice, and reminds audiences there is a warm heart to her character beyond clever quips and shooting planes with explosive arrows.
The second best character comes from a more unexpected place. A cat outshines screen veterans like Woody Harrelson, Julianne Moore, and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. This is not an insult to any of those actors. It is a sincere compliment to an impressively utilized feline. Cute animals are usually props to elicit cheap laughs, but the cat in “Mockingjay” adds a surprising level of charm to the story and likeability of the film’s primary characters.
There is solid action as found in the first two movies, but the story lacks an adequate dramatic device as exciting as watching people trapped in a deadly, televised game. The events feel more random without that structure even if they are still interesting overall.
“Mockingjay – Part 1” is mostly just a long trailer for “Mockingjay – Part 2,” and gets 7 less charismatic Hemsworth brothers out of 10.