“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1,” the third film in the planned “Hunger Games” quartet, has so far received mixed reviews from critics, with some complaining that it’s all too obvious that the final book in Suzanne Collins’ trilogy didn’t need to be split into two films.
“Mockingjay” continues the story of Katniss Everdeen (“X-Men: Days of Future Past” actress Jennifer Lawrence), a teenager living in a dystopian America. She and her allies continue to fight the government, including President Snow (Donald Sutherland), after Katniss escapes from the second Hunger Games in which she was forced to participate. In the Hunger Games, the participants, usually children, are forced to kill one another.
Monitor film critic Peter Rainer gave the movie a C grade and wrote that the problem is right there in the film’s title.
“’Mockingjay,’ a big bore, suffers from being the transitional event before the big showdown,” he wrote. “As an actress, Lawrence has grown beyond this sort of thing, and the entire enterprise… feels like a massive placeholder for the grand finale.”
However, some critics were more won over, with Claudia Puig of USA Today writing that the film is “a nimbly constructed action-adventure blockbuster with a social conscience. It deepens the characters and further invests the audience in the saga… It also is the most absorbing and best in the series.”
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone agreed, giving the film three stars out of four.
“Jennifer Lawrence... is a firebrand for the ages,” he wrote. “Returning director Francis Lawrence (no relation), working from a script by series newbies Peter Craig and Danny Strong, delivers the dazzle without sacrificing the smarts. The suspense is killer. Ditto the thrill of the hunt. The film uses the extra time to, of all things, develop characters and give this dystopian fable a human scale.”
However, Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, “Lawrence owns the role of Katniss from the moment she appears onscreen… Even with so many colorful characters returning – and so many of them dealing with huge changes in their respective worlds – things become repetitive… What works: Lawrence’s non-glamorous, grounded performance as Katniss… Great supporting work from Hoffman, Banks, Harrelson and Jeffrey Wright. Sutherland’s love-to-hate-him work as President Snow… Ultimately, “The Hunger Games: Part 1 — Mockingjay” serves as solid if unspectacular first lap around the track of a two-lap race.”
And Variety critic Justin Chang wrote that the movie is “somewhat unsatisfying by design.”
“Helmer [Francis] Lawrence maintains a steadily absorbing control of the story’s pace, tone and ever-increasing dramatic stakes,” he wrote. “The downside of his fidelity to Collins’ novel (the author even gets an ‘adaptation by’ credit this time around) is that the film never shakes off a safe-and-steady, by-the-book feel, or an unfortunate tendency to spell out the obvious. For all its obvious smarts and mildly provocative ideas, ‘Mockingjay’ doesn’t seem to trust its audience quite as much as it clearly trusts its heroine.”