Stretching roughly half of Suzanne Collins’ final Hunger Games book out to 118 minutes, Mockingjay – Part 1 proves to be something of a test for the franchise’s fanbase. In their co-commentary, director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson congratulate themselves on expanding Collins’ passages about heroine Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) adapting to life below ground in bunkered District 13, but it makes for a turgid first act, mainly boardrooms and brainstorms, until shit gets real out in District 8.
Francis Lawrence’s action direction is strongest, but it’s relatively light here with much happening off-screen. The first rule of screenplays is Show, Don’t Tell, yet the epic decimation of Katniss’ native District 12 is recounted by Gale (Liam Hemsworth), sans flashback. Elsewhere, the vast sets swamp the story, director Lawrence having spent the $125m budget on a life-size Star Wars playset here – stormtroopers, rebel alliance, vaguely incestuous love triangle and all.
When human moments do manage to resonate, they achieve great emotive impact. J-Law has never been more impassioned as Katniss than when issuing a call-to-arms amid the blazing remains of 8, while the use of ‘The Hanging Tree’ – sung by Katniss then broadcast across the land, soundtracking the snowballing rebellion – is goosebump brilliant.
The main extra, a 12-part documentary, is longer than the feature, production footage spliced with talking heads, and there’s a standalone 11-minute tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman with intriguing excerpts of informal rehearsal footage. Lorde waffles on about the soundtrack in another featurette and there’s her video, and nine deleted scenes. Most are superfluous but two, Peeta with President Snow in his mansion, and Katniss and Effie remembering Cinna, should have made the final cut, really. Bugger the boardroom, show us their souls.
- Making Of (BD)
- Featurettes (BD)
- Deleted scenes
- Music video
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