Monday, December 1, 2014

Mockingjay -- Part 1 (a movie review (without the book) post)

So here we are at the third movie, and I'm still not reading the books. Which is not to say that I'm not enjoying the movies, I am. (Well, not the first one so much, but these last two have been quite good.) However, from what I've heard about the books, the reason I like the movies is because the focus has shifted from the love story to the politics, and it's the politics that I find interesting. Honestly, I don't care much for Peeta (who is like a puppy in a perpetual rain storm, all big eyes and whimpers) or Gale (with his constant angst about how Katniss likes Peeta better (and I would like Peeta better, too, if I had to deal with that, right up until I had to deal with Peeta)) and would have a difficult time with a book that obsessed over how the character couldn't make a choice between the two of them. But that's not the movie, so let's move on...

First, let's touch on Philip Seymour Hoffman. I've been a fan of his for a long time, probably owing to The Talented Mr. Ripley, though I first really took note of him in Twister. He gave a great performance in what was an otherwise horrible movie. It was enough to make me watch for him in other films. He was an actor that you could always count on for, at least, a good performance (or a great one, as seen in Capote). I was saddened by his loss. At any rate, initially, it was stated by Lionsgate that he would be digitally recreated for the completion of Mockingjay but, as it turns out, they scrapped that idea. Probably a wise choice, but I didn't know that when I was watching the movie and sat there being amazed at what I thought they'd done. Last word, he was great, as can be expected.

Jennifer Lawrence gave a performance equal to the one she gave in Catching Fire, which is no small thing since the movie hinges on her and her ability to be outraged by the actions of the capitol. The horror that Katniss feels over things like the white roses allows the audience to be outraged along with her. She's a talented actor already; it will be interesting to see where she goes.

The other standout performance was from Elizabeth Banks. She's been superb as Effie Trinket all along, but she really surpassed herself in this one. Effie, having been pulled out of her world and thrust into one which she doesn't understand, is completely out of sorts, and Banks pulls it off flawlessly while still being true to Effie in the process. I'd probably go see these movies just for Banks' performance.

The only complaint I might have about the movie is splitting it into two parts. I've come to a place where I'd rather have one long movie than have it split up. It's not just about the fact that I feel like I'm being milked by Hollywood when they do this, but it's just jarring to have the story stop like that, mid-arc. It's like hitting pause on something and never coming back to finish it. Well, not until months later (or a year in this case). Oh, that and the quinjet that they used. I mean, those VTOL jets they use in the movie look almost identical to the quinjets. Maybe one of the Avengers left one lying around somewhere.

These are really good movies, not quite great but, still, really good. After the shaky start of the first one, they have settled into a visually appealing, solid look for the world, a look which is split between something in the probably far future and a throwback to the turn of the 20th century. Backed by solid acting, this has become a tale, really, of what it's like to live as part of the 99% supporting the 1% in what they justify as a "symbiotic" relationship. I wonder if all parasites see themselves that way.


  1. Interesting assessment, Andrew. I haven't seen any of the movies, but when I read Catching Fire, I remember getting to a point ten or twenty pages in where the book stood on a threshold of sorts, and I saw where it could be really, really great--and it went in a different direction. Sounds like maybe the movies would be more up my alley.

  2. I'll probably watch part of it out of curiosity. The second was better than the first, but that's not saying much since I thought the first movie was awful.
    It is jarring to have the story split. Plus it tends to make the story lopsided. Deathly Hallows Part II was one of the best Harry Potter movies while Part I was incredibly boring.

  3. I was surprised it was split in two too. My daughter and hubby will be seeing this while it's in the theatre. I'm not a big fan of the movie. But, my Peanut, she loves the movies and the books.

  4. We watch these when they come out on DVD. It's good, but just not good enough that I want to rush out and spend $10 at the theater. It's interesting that the movies focus more on the politics than the romance (which I like). That's also probably one of the main reasons why this is a book series I just really have no desire to read.

  5. I saw the first movie and actually liked it, though I'm still staying far away from the massively overhyped books. I agree with you about Hollywood splitting up movies into two. If people like a movie or book enough, they won't care it's past a certain arbitrary length. Splitting something up when the story isn't over yet ruins a lot of dramatic momentum, and doesn't provide a sense of closure.

  6. JeffO: And that's why I have stayed away from the books. Even people that love them frequently tell me that the third book is barely worth reading.

    Rajiv: Thanks.

    Alex: Yeah, Deathly Hallows 1 could have been named "Let's Watch Some Kids Sit in a Tent."

    Elsie: More money, more money.

    ABftS: I would probably wait for the DVDs except that I have a wife and daughter who MUST see them opening weekend.

    Carrie-Anne: Who cares about closure when there's money to be made?
    Peter Jackson, anyone?

  7. Actually, I don't remember the books obsessing over who she'd choose much--the fans on the other hand...

    I liked the books well enough, but the movies are just much better. They manage to distill the good parts and keep us from having to read rather bland, stilted prose.

  8. Jeanne: I know the fans did(do), but my understanding is that that paradigm was set up by Katniss and her dithering between the two.

  9. I think everyone's a little undone about them splitting it into two parts...I think they could have done it. There isn't THAT much more that happened in the book that it couldn't have been worked in, if they'd cut some of the stuff in the movie. I guess they want to drag this Hunger Games thing out as long as they can, though, since there are no more books.

  10. I'm way behind on both the books and the films. My daughter, though, asked about the first book today so I wonder if perhaps it's not far off in our future.

  11. You already said it, but I'll second it: Splitting it makes it cost twice as much to see the movie. Seems like a dirty trick unless you just really love the movie and don't want it to end. I haven't seen one of these two-parter movie endings, so I can't say whether I would like it or not. I did like "Kill Bill," so I guess I don't mind it?

    I've honestly NEVER had a desire to read one of these books or see the movie. Even with good reviews, this is just something that's completely outside of anything that even seems remotely like something I'd enjoy.

    Plus I'm kind of sick of Jennifer Lawrence.

  12. I had to add this because I thought of it too late: You liked the fact that the movie is about politics. That struck a chord with me because I've been reading a lot about Episode VII and people seem relieved that it's NOT about politics. There are probably a lot of disappointed tweens who are feeling something like Star Wars fans did when the Galactic Senate voted to break the trade embargo.

  13. Stephanie: They'll probably make up something new to go with it to make more movies from like they're doing with Harry Potter.

    TAS: My daughter had a slight urge to read them a few years ago, before she was really ready to, but she seems to have no interest in the books, now.

    Briane: Kill Bill was Tarantino's own thing and made that way to fit whatever his purpose was. It's not really an equal comparison.

    I think politics in Star Wars made it too real for the older fans. I liked see the machinations of Palpatine. That's how a true Sith would do it. And did.

  14. I haven't seen it yet (waiting for my son to finish the book so we can see it together). I've heard complaints that she had just really muscled up and grown into her strength in the 2nd one, but yet again became just a tool, weakened, in this one. You don't appear to have gotten that impression, though. Also, I agree on splitting books up. I hate that. It also makes them think they don't have to edit it down like they did the others. Cut the fat and make it one somewhat longer movie.

  15. Shannon: Oh, no, she's definitely being used. That's part of the politics, her being moved around like a chess piece.

  16. I still need to see this! Didn't enjoy this book, though I'll probably love the movie… loved your review, Andrew.

  17. Morgan: It's kind of a hard thing, sometimes, to want to see a movie of a book you don't like. After Percy Jackson, that's part of why I want to see the movies first.

  18. Interesting review~ I've been holding out on seeing this one for a while, probably 1) because it's not over here in Japan, and 2) I'd rather wait until the second part is closer to its release date. :P

    That being said, I agree, the politics are the more interesting aspect. I tend to skim romantic sections in books (or roll my eyes so hard they fall into the pages of a different story), so it's nice to see it toned down.

    1. Alex H: I would like to watch your eyes fall out. Actually, I'm sure that would freak me out. I mean, there's a reason the Man with No Eyes is a villain.