Published on March 13th, 2015 | by Sean Warhurst
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Blu-ray Review
Summary: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay is worth a look if you’re a fan of the franchise but it’s definitely the weakest entry in the series.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
Director – Francis Lawrence
Actors – Jennifer Lawrence/Josh Hutcherson/Liam Hemsworth/Woody Harrelson/Elizabeth Banks/Julianne Moore/Philip Seymour Hoffman/Jeffrey Wright/Jena Malone/Stanley Tucci /Donald Sutherland
Film Genre – Adventure
Label – Roadshow
Audio – English (Dolby ATMOS 7.1)
Subtitles – English
Running Time – 122 Minutes
Aspect Ratio – 2.40:1
Region Coding – B (Blu-Ray)
TV Standard – PAL
Rating – M
Year of Release – 2014
Reviewer – Sean Warhurst
Katniss and company return to our screens with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, the penultimate chapter in the hit series that moves away from the Thunderdomesque gladiatorial combat of the last two films and instead offers up the beginning of a rebellion against the despotic President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and the iron fist with which he rules over the different districts.
Now, I say the penultimate chapter as, although the novels upon which the films are based structurally form a trilogy, Mockingjay is yet another film in the long line of book to film adaptations where the studios behind them decide to maximise profits by unnecessarily splitting the final chapter in two, much like the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises.
Too often this leads to the films coming off as bloated and packed with filler and, unfortunately, Mockingjay doesn’t manage to buck the trend, instead padding out the film to the point where the plot moves at a lethargic pace when compared to previous instalments, eventually meandering its way to a half-hearted cliffhanger ending that only serves to highlight just how little content there was present in the final novel has been spread so thinly between this and its entirely unnecessary accompanying film.
As mentioned above, Mockingjay and its upcoming companion film focuses on the rebellion of the districts against The Citadel after the seed was planted during the events of Chasing Fire; Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is now held up as the face of the revolution, a position bolstered by propaganda pieces that inspire the downtrodden masses to rise up against their oppressors.
Fans of the series will remember that the annual Hunger Games were initially created as a means to punish the Panem districts for daring to attempt a revolution, so the stakes are relatively high for the main characters and, indeed, the collective districts as a whole; if the Hunger Games were initially implemented as a way of quelling any form of organised resistance, then what terrible fate lies in store for the populace if this rebellion also fails to succeed?
Despite her elevated position in the public eye, Katniss is really just a puppet being manipulated by Plutarch Heavensbee (The late Philip Seymour Hoffman) and President Alma Coin (Recent Oscar winner Julianne Moore), even if they have righteous intentions. Planning every facet of Katniss’s political campaign against the Citadel, one wonders if Katniss hasn’t just aligned herself with the lesser of two evils; certainly her puppet masters are a lot more morally dubious than they first appear.
Although initially reluctant to assist Plutarch and Alma due to their leaving Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) behind in the Hunger Games arena, eventually Katniss agrees to become the “Mockingjay”, the symbol of the rebellion, on the condition that Peeta and their other cohorts are rescued, kicking into gear events that will irrevocably change her life and the lives of all those who live in the district… Except, of course, most of this is going to take place in the concluding chapter of the film series.
That’s the biggest problem with Mockingjay Part 1 – It’s all just setting things up for the final film, which makes for an unsatisfying viewing experience. Gone are the high octane combat sequences that characterised the first film and in their place are extended scenes of characters talking incessantly about their plans but taking little action themselves. The film appears to be ramping up to a stylish and entertaining finale but the path to get there has been unnecessarily extended and the film suffers as a result.
The cast performances and lavish set design are just as accomplished as in the previous films but there is an air of emptiness to this entry, a hollow quality that no amount of Lorde songs can distract from.
Presentation wise The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 looks absolutely stunning, with top marks in both the visual and audio departments. The production design is complemented by a finely detailed transfer from Roadshow, with naturalistic colours and impeccable detail visible in each shot. There’s no sign of any visual anomalies at all and, as is to be expected given the profile of the film, the entire transfer is resplendent in its beauty.
The audio has also been deftly mastered, making for a robust and dynamic listening experience that takes full advantage of the capabilities afforded by a decent surround sound system, with clear delineation between channels and sound mixes that immerse the viewer within the world of the film.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 comes packed with a ton of extras for fans to peruse. Firstly there’s a separate disc that comes with an exhaustive look at the process of making the film, covering each area of production in a series of dedicated featurettes that offer the option to either be viewed individually or as a feature length Making Of. On disc one there’s a collection of nine deleted scenes of varying quality, an informative audio commentary that inevitably retreads some of the some ground covered in the Making Of but is enjoyable nonetheless, a couple of short featurettes focusing on Lorde’s contributions to the soundtrack and the legacy of the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman and finally a Music Video for Lorde’s song “Yellow Flicker Beat”.
There’s ample supplemental material here to keep fans entertained long after the credits roll, although there are a couple of minor spoilers for those who don’t know how the series ends, so enter at your own risk.
List of Features:
- Audio Commentary with Director Francis Lawrence and Producer Nina Jacobson
- Lorde “Yellow Flicker Beat” Music Video (4:01)
- Songs of Rebellion: Lorde on Curating the Soundtrack (8:09)
- Straight From the Heart: A Tribute to Phillip Seymour Hoffman (11:02)
- Deleted Scenes (11:19)
- The Mockingjay Lives – Making The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2:14:19)
- Hope and Rebellion: Continuing the Saga
- Designing Dystopia: Visual Aesthetic
- Rebels and Warriors: The Cast
- Fusing Form and Function: Costume, Make-Up and Hair
- Fighting the System: Shooting on Location
- D13: Rebellion Tactics: The Post-Production Process
- Taking Back Our Future: Reflections & Looking Forward
Although entertaining enough in its own right, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is a disappointment, a failed opportunity to condense the events of the novel into one cohesive and exciting film rather than the plodding blatant cash grab that we ultimately received.
The simple fact is that not all that much happens in this entry plot wise to really justify splitting the film into two part and, it may sound like I’m harping on this point, but I think the film really would’ve benefitted from trimming the fat and just settling on one final entry in the series.
Another area where this film falls short when compared to its predecessors is the lack of an exhilarating action setpiece like the titular games themselves, instead playing out more like a game of political chess that, whilst not without its moments, is decidedly less likely to get the blood pumping than a gladiatorial fight to the death between children and, in the sequel at least, adults, manages to.
Jennifer Lawrence performs as capably as ever here and the supporting cast is solid all around but nobody really has all that much to do, instead just serving to lay the groundwork for the upcoming Mockingjay Part 2.
Overall, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is worth a look if you’re a fan of the franchise but it’s definitely the weakest entry in the series and, ultimately, as unfulfilling as walking out of a cinema after watching half of a film, which, in essence, is exactly what you’re doing.