In “Mockingjay Part 1”, we continue the story from the point we were left behind. We all know by now, that there already senses of uprising and unrest looming due to totalitarian rule adopted by the Capitol, but none of rebelling districts are united yet. When Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and her gang of allied tributes committed an act of defiance against the Capitol during the recent Quarter Quell, the act which was televised across Panem, was seen as a turning point. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) was obviously not pleased and he ordered the attacks to curb the attempted uprisings. By this time, Katniss’ home soil of District 12 was destroyed, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) was captured by the Capitol and the rebels are now hiding in the District 13.
Now operating from the underground fortress of a district once thought to have been wiped out by the Capitol, the rebels and the military under the command of President Coin (Julianne Moore) are planning for their next moves to strike back and brings an end to the Capitol's oppressive system. The savvy strategist Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and President Coin intend to use Katniss as their face weapon of propaganda war against the Capitol, to spur the oppressed civilians to rise up against the Capitol. While Katniss has some initial reservation about the plan, she received helps from her now-sober former mentor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and bubbly Fashionista Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks).
The absence of the savage game-theme that gave the first two instalments their supply of entertainment and well-staged action, is quite noticeable on “Mockingjay Part 1”. Much like the “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” and “Twilight: Breaking Dawn”, the split in the final instalment produces very different two halves – a first half of heavy on the setup that leads to an unsatisfactory and awkward pre-conclusions (or something like a cliff-hanger), and a second half that walks into a fire-cracking, spectacular finale. Supposedly in “Mockingjay Part 1”, the even darker tone of an already darker tone movie comes out being slow-paced and offers very little in terms of the bigger picture of the trilogy. If you are expecting story development that at least ends with heavy punches, you will be left dismay. There may be lacking in the actions, but director Francis Lawrence brings some sort of gravitas in the first half of the instalment with suitable personal and psychological subheadings. Hence, most of the screen time is there trying to help Katniss to recover from her own dreadful nightmare, the devastation of her home town and reluctance to lead a face game revolution.
The plot in “Mockingjay Part 1” is not only about Katniss’ personal issues, whose involvement in the movie is pretty passive, but once again also involve the political and propaganda game, albeit a little tamer. The result is not entirely disappointing, but is a step down from the bigger, bolder and fiery approach they employed in “Catching Fire”. The tug-of-war intensity between the totalitarian in the Capitol and the resistance in District 13, does not seem to spark much more interesting speculative stories than the manipulative nature of the guerilla tactic. For this aspect, we see Hoffman’s role Plutarch is given with that emphasis to shine with wits, but it also hinders the prospect of having Coin, Gale and Cressida (Natalie Dormer) with more roles on it. Nevertheless, screenwriters Peter Craig (The Town) and Danny Strong (The Butler) who took over from the Academy Awards writing partners of Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt, still do a good job on the scripts and dialogues, and also able to churn out a relatively compelling story to follow.
Despite having good script, great themes and excellent ensemble of casts with plenty of Oscar belt in between them; “Mockingjay Part 1” feels like a grounded movie that is still struggling to find its own direction in the wake of the new horizon in the series. At least, the lack of actions and slow pace story are compensated with evoking sense of hope that something big is about to happen in the next 12 months. B
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