The biggest problem with "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1" is that it should not be a film. Here are the lengths of the final books of well-known young adult novels: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," 197,651 words; "Breaking Dawn" from the "Twilight" series, 192,196 words; and "Mockingjay," the concluding novel of "The Hunger Games" trilogy, 100,269 words.
For context, the much-revered novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" clocks in at 99,121 words. While I admit I have not yet read "The Hunger Games" novels, a book the length of "To Kill a Mockingbird" has no business being more than one movie. The decision to split it in two was undoubtedly a business decision; which is unfortunate, because good business far too often gets in the way of good art.
Serving as the third of four films, "Mockingjay" suffers notably as an extended set-up piece. The rebellion that has been brewing under the surface about the "Hunger Games" movies finally came to a head at the end of "Catching Fire," which is, by far, my favorite entry in the series. Calamitous events transpired, and the war against the oppressive Capitol had finally begun. Enter "Mockingjay" and an hour-long restart to a war that should have already been in progress. Regardless of how well "Mockingjay Part 1" syncs to the first half of the novel "Mockingjay," there are extended pieces that feel bloated.
There's a strong comparison to be made to how different ages of people eat the cereal Lucky Charms. When I was a kid, I thought I had it all figured out. I would eat all of the cereal first and save all of the marshmallows for the end, which is the strategy the producers of "Mockingjay" must have employed. When I eat Lucky Charms now, which is still delicious by the way, I mix the marshmallows in with every bite, that way there's an even balance and I don't waste half of my bowl of cereal choking down bland, marshmallow-less cereal in a misguided attempt to make a second half that is marshmallow-packed. Much like two-part movies dividing set up and pay off by a full year in an effort to sell double the tickets.
"Mockingjay's" place in the universe notwithstanding, it does have its moments. It toys with interesting ideas about revolution, freedom and the tortured souls that often shift the world between the two. Jennifer Lawrence and the rest of the cast perform admirably; however, a cast of this magnitude comes to the table with truly outstanding films under its collective belt. That being the case, it's not hard to imagine they weren't overly challenged by "Mockingjay."
While I have great disdain for "Mockingjay's" business decisions, I did not dislike the film as a piece of art and I look forward to seeing it finally completed next year.
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