Picking up right where we left off, we re-enter the life of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) as she awakes in District 13 fully aware of the fact she has destroyed the Hunger Games forever; with the Capitol, and in particular, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) desperate to put an abrupt end to her rebellion.
For Katniss is an emblem of hope for those left in the districts; a reason to carry on. The Captiol are bleeding them dry in the most barbaric and destructive of manners. Yet in Katniss they see a hero; somebody who can rise up against the system. Both Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) are aware of this fact, and so set her up as the Mockingjay: the hero in a series of propaganda clips. While seeing little choice but to abide, Katniss is otherwise concerned with the safety of Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), who remains in the clutches of the Capitol – and is seemingly being swayed by their persuasive and savage sense of idealism.
This third outing for director Francis Lawrence feels entirely different to the preceding productions, as they both followed a similar structure: with a pensive opening act, building towards the Hunger Games event taking up the latter half of the picture. Yet in this instance we’re without the games; instead focusing solely on Katniss and her determination to seek revenge on the Capitol and save her dear friend. As such this picture comes without the satirical glamour that decorated the first two films; with both Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) and Effie Trinket (Elziabeth Banks) consigned to smaller, less glitzy roles. This is indicative of a movie that revels in darkness: with a dark, grey aesthetic throughout; the destruction of the varying districts making up the unforgiving backdrop. What does remain consistent and inline with the previous features, however, is the commendable performances of this stellar cast. From Lawrence to Moore, to a predictably compelling turn by the late Seymour Hoffman. That’s what sets this film apart from the rest of the ‘young adult’ franchises.
Nonetheless, there is an overwhelming sense as you reach this film’s finale, that the final Suzanne Collins novel does not need to be split into two separate films. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 is unfulfilling in that regard; feeling like one long set-up, only to draw the curtains as soon as it gets interesting. What can be said for certain though is that it leaves the audience wanting more, and the next year building up to the final film in this remarkable franchise could well feel like a long one.