The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 1

Art & Culture

It is not clear to me what purpose is served by dividing the last book of The Hunger Games trilogy into two films. Apart from the money, of course. It means that we spend the whole 2 hours in a state of static stasis – a pompous way of saying nothing much happens.

The film starts with Katniss having a moment – a mini-meltdown due to the enormous strain under which she's been placed by events. But the core of the film is that she won't become a poster girl for the revolution unless Peeta is rescued from Panem where he is being held hostage and doing long TV interviews with Stanley Tucci asking for world peace. (I'm assuming that you are familiar with the story so far; if not, tough). The irony is that when Peeta does get rescued, she may wonder whether it was such a good idea.

Meanwhile Katniss's other alpha male, Gale is looking broody and pensive, as well he may, since he is clearly that most humiliating of characters – The Backup Bloke. He even has to go and rescue Peeta which is not good news. Meanwhile, the likes of Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman (wipe away a tear) and Jeffrey Wright, try to make something out of roles which require them to do little more than look wise/baffled/authoritative/troubled (delete as applicable). Because we're all waiting for the attack on Panem, which is the whole (and only) point of the third book, but which won't happen until the fourth film.

And of course, most troublingly, there are no Games. For a book called Hunger Games, the absence of Games almost constitutes a breach of the Trades Descriptions Act. Worse still, a lot of the film is spent underground in the murky lair of District 13, who seem to have managed to construct a mini-Pentagon three hundred feet below ground, able to withstand heavy bombing. (Talking of which – how do bombers manage to drop white roses precisely on target? No wind drift?)

All of the above sounds critical – and is, if I'm honest – but then there's Jennifer Lawrence who is always completely magnetic (though that hair colour doesn't suit her). This woman (still only 25 as I write) is a riveting screen presence, and the main reason why this half-film floats at all. Donald Sutherland continues to twirl his (metaphorical) moustaches, while issuing threats in a voice liked oiled cream;poor Woody Harrelson has almost nothing to do at all. It is a great cast, but most of them are wasted.

And now we have to wait another 12 months for the conclusion, and therefore those of us who have read the books (everyone?) will know exactly what happens. Still, it'll be fun to watch, with more action and less waiting. It's a shame that greed has dictated the timetable of the films, but it was always thus.