I remember the first time I was introduced to The Hunger Games, the book series. I was talking to a smart, young twenty-something whose sheer exuberance for the dystopian novel series was exhausting. On top of that, she simply couldn’t wait for the movie version to arrive. Looking back on that conversation, I’d have to say that I hope her joy wasn’t dampened by the first two installments. I hope it has built up to a fever pitch by now because if anything could put out a fire, it’d have to be the third in the series: “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.”
In the genre of dystopian films and novels, “The Hunger Games” (2012) and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” (2013) have it all: white-knuckled suspense, intense action, sweet romance and inspiring moral dilemmas. “Mockingjay – Part 1” has none of that.
The enigmatic and beautiful Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) now finds herself in the middle of the renegades of District 13. Thanks to her, District 12 has been destroyed, and her branding as a radical is complete.
She’s fallen in with President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Havensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), both of whom have a quiet, insidiousness about them that simply gets under your skin. They’ve convinced Everdeen to become a larger-than-life symbol of the approaching rebellion.
Occasional zippy appearances of crowd favorites Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), and Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) can’t do enough to dispel the flatline.
Everdeen will be trotted out to create spectacular media events to convince the downtrodden masses to fight for their freedom. In the meantime, President Snow (Donald Sutherland), the evil president of Panem pulls a few strings of his own, enlisting Katniss’s paramour Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) to create propaganda on behalf of the Capitol. Clearly a victim of Snow’s torture team, Peeta does what he can to deliver messages that oppose everything Katniss and her party stand for.
Eventually, a rescue mission will be launched to wrest Peeta from Snow’s evil clutches.
With long, tedious scenes of scenic destruction (how much gray can one movie have?) and long, tedious speeches embedded in small bursts of action, “Mockingjay – Part 1” sets the scene for what’s to come in the next installment. Beyond that, there’s not much to sing about. The Mockingjay has turned out to be a turkey.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material.
Marilyn Robitaille has been writing film reviews for the Empire-Tribune since 1999.