I have a message for President Snow. I am bored out of my mind.
The recent cinematic installment of the “Hunger Games” series suffered from an unevenness of tone and a lack of energy to match the dialogue heavy scene work. If there is anything to take away from “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” it’s that President Snow has a very favorable bulk purchase rate on white roses.
It is immediately noticeable that splitting the Mockingjay into two separate films could prove to be a fatal mistake for this once burgeoning franchise. As the initial allure of the first film fades to a distant memory, the sequels have done little to recapture that initial revolutionary and anti-authority energy. This presentation came across with the intensity of a table read. With the exception of the late and undeniably great Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of President Coin’s political confidant Plutarch Heavensbee, the rest of the cast seems half awake and outright lazy.
The laziest of the lot is none other than Jennifer Lawrence with her meager portrayal of the once unflappable Katniss Everdeen. The acting she did do was over-the-top and so jarringly campy that I had trouble taking the film serious enough to get invested in it. Lawrence takes the Oscar curse to the next level, and by Oscar curse I mean once you win one you only have one direction to go… and that is down hill. Right now you can call her the Lindsay Vaughn of Hollywood because she is racing downhill like an Olympic gold medalist. I would say that given my tone I was obviously disappointed with her performance or, should I say, lack there of.
Unfortunately the lackluster performances didn’t end there. The rest of the cast fell victim to the same bland and emotionally empty delivery. Liam Hemsworth’s Gale Hawthorne is quickly lost in the mix. What bothers me the most about his alleged infatuation with Katniss is that although he says it, I don’t feel or see the on-screen chemistry. Elizabeth Banks’ Effie Trinket is just as colorful as the 1st film even without her elaborate gowns and violet tinged wigs. It is unfortunate that an actor of that caliber be relegated to being the comedic relief and only lightly sprinkled over the emotionally baron, yet visually pleasing cinematic landscape. Thank heavens for Josh Hutcherson and his livid and lively Peeta Mallark. I don’t want to spoil the movie, but to be vague he emotes well enough to make you finally feel something after a painfully mind numbing 2 hours. Another notable performance was Julianne Moore’s militant and stoic President Alama Coin. I enjoyed seeing Moore play something different and that she does. As for Donald Sutherland’s President Snow, I feel like the part is just too flowery… badump chish.
As the old saying goes, “Actions Speak Louder Than Words.” This is some advice the production team needs to desperately take. You can have the characters speak their emotions and verbally walk us through their loves and hates, but the only way to genuinely convey an emotion or a concept is through action.
Newcomers such as “Game of Thrones” Natalie Dormer fit in with the ensemble, but bring very little to the table. With the unexpected passing of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, “The Hunger Games” franchise seems to be headed towards troubled waters. Replacing Hoffman or giving an adequate backstory to his absence could very well make or break the next installment.
I can’t entirely fault the actors for their damp delivery. The adaptation process left a gaping hole in terms of urgency and energy. The dialogue was at times so redundant that it was borderline comedic. The few attempts of instilling comedic moments were misplaced and in one instance overly rushed. It is rather ironic that a production with so much empty space would feel the need to rush trough certain emotional climaxes, yet marinate on other mundane and less meaningful moments.
The dialogue in this film is like throwing a soaking wet beach towel onto a miniature poodle. It’s smothering any flicker of what was expected to be a fiery success. Have you seen the trailer? Well, then guess what? You have already seen the pinnacle of the action scene work in the film as well as only semi-emotial line delivery by Lawrence. That is not to say the action is not there as there is limited action in the movie, but it has all been seen in the trailer.
I will say that from the perspective of scene work, and the cinematic landscapes were all truly fantastic. Francis Lawrence does well in creating the appropriate setting and war-torn appeal, but he is unable to rally his cast and instill in them the appropriate energy to create a matching tone.
Personally, I found very little enriching about this 2 hour excursive in futility. It seems the studio made a decision to split the film to capitalize on the brand, but the 1 hour worth of source material adapted for the film was far too flimsy to support the weight of the mammoth 2 hour runtime. Basically, if the world suffered a nuclear holocaust tomorrow leaving me trapped in a basement bunker for the next decade and the only thing to watch is “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1,” I can comfortably say that I would never watch another movie ever again.
Despite an all-star cast and best-seller caliber source material, “The Hunger Game: Mockingjay - Part 1” fails to catch fire as it’s smothered by heavy dialogue and emotional detachment. If you are a fan of the books, this would likely appeal to you given you have already read the backstory. If you have not read the books, don’t expect the film to stand-up on its own.