Cert 12a | ★★★☆☆
So what happens now The Hunger Games are over? The previous two instalments of the franchise revolved around these Battle Royale-style tournaments, in which two “tributes” from each district of dystopia Panem fought to the death in a grisly reality TV show devised by a fascist regime as a pretty extreme method of crowd control.
But in the last film, our heroine Katniss Everdeen was rescued from the Games by rebels who plan to use her to overthrow the regime. So what’s The Hunger Games without, well, The Hunger Games? Grimy, in a word. In Mockingjay Pt.1, we’re thrown headfirst into the poverty and devastation of a world at war.
Jennifer Lawrence returns to play Katniss, but the character that made her a household name isn’t as appealing this time around. Teenage girls in particular warmed to the series because the main character was a young, but hardened, action girl that’s deadly with a bow and arrow. But the last Games left Katniss a broken soul, and she spends a large portion of this film either equivocating about her leadership role or mooning over fellow tribute Peeta, while childhood flame Gale (played by Liam Hemsworth) burns with envy. The girl on fire has been extinguished and she’s a bit of a whinger, actually.
Peeta, meanwhile, is being held in the Capitol where he’s bagged himself a weekly chat show spot spouting pro-regime rhetoric. Katniss is torn between leading the revolution and her feelings for Peeta, who she insists is being coerced into spreading lies on air.
At the same time, she’s also being forced into making propaganda by Plutarch Heavensbee, a film maker played by a typically sardonic Philip Seymour Hoffman in his last performance on screen. He sends Katniss out into the field with a camera crew to capture her heroics and recruit the rest of Panem to the rebel cause.
Mockingjay is at its weakest when it’s preoccupied with the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale, which is neither believable nor compelling. It’s Katniss’ struggle to live up to her propagandist alter ego, the “Mockingjay” of the title, and both sides’ efforts to control the airwaves that bring a fresh, contemporary angle to the franchise. Like Harry Potter and The Hobbit before it, the Hunger Games’ finale has been split into two parts, and this penultimate film was always going to feel anti-climatic as a result.
But, in a very modern twist on the genre, The Hunger Games is no longer a fight for survival, it’s a battle for hearts and minds.
CRITIC’S CHOICE: FILM
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