And another thing. I think one reason Mockingjay – Part 1 feels so banal is that it takes itself so seriously. In the world of its characters, saving prisoners and overthrowing a corrupt government is very serious. Indeed, this has been the tone of the entire series, because in the beginning it made sense that you had to take the Hunger Games competition seriously or you would trivialize the parable.
Now that we’re past the Hunger Games part of the story, the third act suffers for its gravitas. This isn’t the first story of a group of rebels in a dystopian future, so rehashing another overthrow of an evil empire doesn’t seem so serious anymore. If it’s fun, the viewer can give it a bit more of a pass for employing common tropes and any deus ex machinas. Not saying it has to be pulpy, but the more serious it takes itself, the sillier it seems that grown-ups are actually playing sci-fi rebels.
There are still touches of Caesar (Stanley Tucci) and Effie (Elizabeth Banks) humor, but the overall tone is gravitas, saying, “THIS IS IMPORTANT. PAY ATTENTION.” This may be the Nolan effect, erroneously blamed on Christopher Nolan’s serious approach to the Batman movies. That creative choice worked for those movies, but it’s not automatically the right choice for every genre. Mockingjay is only showing us the same tropes as many other sci-fi stories. The serious version of those tropes suggests that the storytellers (author or filmmakers) don’t actually get the joke of examining modern society through futuristic rebels in bunker hideouts, covert missions (“It’s a trap!”), one inspiring figure to unite us all, Manchurian candidates, a love triangle, a pseudo-resurrection, etc.
I guess I prefer satire to parables. Humor punctuates the absurdity of the subject satire is criticizing. It’s still a good message though. Please do question authority, and especially question what the media tells you to believe, on both sides. It is a bit unfortunate though that a series based on criticizing the media has become a media marketing tool, splitting a single story into two films (i.e. two separate tickets) when it didn’t have the material to back up the first part at least.
Fans of the book are surely happy that the two-parter allows them to include everything from the book. Every single scene. But if that’s only entertaining to the people who’ve read the entire story in another form, that suggests that the book doesn’t actually translate. There are other factors involved here though. The book was adapted by screenwriters, so they are the gatekeepers. It does seem they removed the most cliched line of the book (“I kill Snow”), according to EW (http://insidemovies.ew.com/2014/11/21/mockingjay-book-vs-movie/), which only would have made me lose more patience. Katniss doesn’t need her own “This time it’s personal” or “I’m your worst nightmare” line. It would also be extremely poor planning. SEAL Team Six didn’t call dibs on who actually got to fire the kill shot. Whoever has the opportunity should take it.
I’ve still got to believe there is a way to make a good two parter movie, but I haven’t seen one yet. This isn’t just for adaptations split into two parts. The Back to the Future sequels suffer from splitting a third act into its own third film. The Matrix and Pirates of the Caribbean sequels got so convoluted in their own mythology they didn’t work. Kill Bill was split purely to make a release date. It wouldn’t have been ready in time if Tarantino had to edit it down. Maybe Lord of the Rings worked because the books had a trilogy structure (which the films, ahem, adapted!) but now we have the Hobbits. I love sequels. I always want there to be more sequels but what I want is for each sequel to be a complete new chapter, not to stretch one sequel into two or three parts.
The reason to split Mockingjay into two parts wasn’t to include more of the book. They’re not some benevolent storyteller trust. They want to sell you tickets to the same movie twice. I’m just waiting for them to split earlier books into two parts. Why should they ever adapt anything into a streamlined form ever again? We’ll never know if there was a more visual way to convey this story. The filmmakers didn’t have to. They just got the time to throw everything at the screen.
Rating: Still Wait for Cable
Link to Mockingjay – Part 1 Review Part 1 (http://nukethefridge.com/2014/11/18/hunger-games-mockingjay-part-1-review/)