“Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1” premiered in the U.S. on Nov. 21. Since that time, reviewers have been able to digest the first installment in the two-part finale and have mostly come to the same conclusion: Why in the world is this a two-part finale?
Many early reviews of the film note that while the acting and directing were spot on the story suffered significantly by being split into two parts saying that there’s simply not enough of a beginning, middle and end story to make Mockingjay feel like anything but a place holder. It's certainly not a stand alone film. Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Nashawaty said the film is “like a term paper with the margins enlarged and the font size jacked up to reach the assigned number of pages.”
Other reviewers have not only noted this problem, but taken it a step further and called out the studio for turning the movie into just filler. It’s no secret that since the “Harry Potter” final book was split into two movies, studios feel that young adult adaptations need to be squeezed for one extra movie.
In his Chicago Sun Times review, Richard Roeper writes: “As was the case with the ‘Twilight’ franchise, the reasons for the split of the adaptation of the last book seem more financial than creative.”
That’s seems true given where the filmmakers decided to end the story [SPOILER ALERT FOR “MOCKINGJAY, PART 1”]. According to Yahoo Movies, after spending the entire movie apart, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) are finally reunited after the rebels launch a daring mission to rescue the captured Peeta from the Capitol’s control. Unfortunately, as book readers will know, he is not the man Katniss left behind in the arena.
Thanks to a vicious combination of tracker jacker venom and torture, he’s been brainwashed to hate both Katniss and the rebellion. The film ends on a grim note as Katniss stares at the man she’s grown to love through a window while he writhes around in a hospital bed.
Although the films aren’t known for their upbeat nature, the previous two installments ended on a relatively high note for Katniss. This time around, the film seems to be taking the “Empire Strikes Back” approach by allowing its good guys to lose… for now.
It’s not altogether surprising that “Mockingjay” has been met with critical controversy given its source material. As Adi Robertson of The Verge notes, “Mockingjay” was “easily the weakest book in Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, so it’s not really fair to blame the actors and filmmakers for all its shortcomings.”
Those who have read the books know that the next step for Katniss and the rebellion is to attack the Capitol head on. It’s likely that “Mockingjay, Part 2” (scheduled for release in November of 2015) will focus on planning and executing that assault. In the meantime, fans will have only the negative image of Katniss losing Peeta to get them through the wait.