Thanks to Warner Bros’ greedy attempts to squeeze the last possible dime out of their lucrative Harry Potter franchise, we now have a new sub-genre that can be titled "First movie of the two-part finale based on the last book of a popular Young Adult series".
After Warner Bros decided to split the final chapter of the bespectacled boy wizard’s saga into two films for no practical reason other than to make double the box-office, every Young Adult adaptation seem to have jumped on the same profitable yet insultingly cynical and cashgrabby bandwagon.
Regardless of the final book’s length (Hell, it can be as long as a haiku, they wouldn’t care), the big finale of any such series is currently required by Hollywood law to be split into two films, resulting in a plodding, slow-paced first chapter full of unnecessary padding in order to reach the necessary running time, only to be followed by a second chapter that induces instant headaches by focusing entirely on expensive set pieces.
If these two parts were combined into one three-hour-or-so movie, it could work as a whole, but the way they’re split does nothing but provide the fans with a cinematic case of blue balls that’s entirely uncalled for.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 – Subsection D – Catalogue 2927 – Blahblahwhateverwegotyourmoneysuckit 65 suffers from the same problem. Until the second part comes out next year so the fans can watch this one at home before catching up with the true finale in theatres, resulting in a Frankenstein’s monster-like film-watching experience, it will remain a cinematic orphan, an act-and-a-half in search of a complete movie.
The many problems that plague "The first movie of the two-part finale" are all front and center in this two-hour trailer for Mockingjay - Part 2. First of all, I’ve yet to be convinced that any of these films truly deserved to be split into two parts. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1 could have easily been cut down by at least an hour and combined with Part 2 as a three-hour movie. Does anyone actually think that every frame of the overlong middle act full of wizard camping and awkward dancing in Part 1 were essential to the story?
It becomes evident pretty early on that Mockingjay – Part 1’s two-hour runtime could have also been split in half. A considerable majority of the “movie” takes place in District 13, the rebel headquarters where Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is taken after being rescued from Quarter Quell. There are some interesting and surprisingly politically complex ideas, as Katniss becomes the rebels’ main source of propaganda to rile up the uprising in the other districts.
Meanwhile, President Snow (Why isn’t Donald Sutherland getting enough props for deftly portraying one of the most formidable antagonists in recent film history?) devises a devilish counter-propaganda, forcing Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) to speak out against the uprising. I would have loved it if the entirety of Part 1 focused on the ugly politics of this world, but I’m probably the only person who’d enjoy a David Mamet/Wag The Dog-style political satire wrapped around a franchise worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
There are a minimal amount of action set pieces here, as well as a relatively unnecessary and unfair focus on the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale (Liam Hemsworth). This should at least satisfy the series’ core base of tween girls, but feels out of place as director Francis Lawrence does perhaps too good of a job creating a truly dark and dystopian world full of oppression and death.
Yet in the end, there’s a lot of filler here, which really drags down the momentum that was expertly achieved by last year’s excellent Catching Fire. Did we really need to revisit a lot of the same locations without adding much to the plot or character, or a five-minute scene centered on Katniss trying to find her sister during an emergency, who disappears for the dumbest reason this side of plot contrivance?
Interestingly, the best scenes in Part 1 don’t involve any of the main characters. The short but effective set pieces showing rebels from other districts fighting the capital against all odds create the most exciting sections of the, again, I’m hard-pressed to call this a movie.
I’m pretty certain that Part 1 will work much better when viewed back-to-back with Part 2, the way Deathly Hallows did. But until then, I’m not sure if it’s really worth it to waste an entire evening, as well as ticket and concessions money on the bloated first half of a film that cuts as abruptly as this sent…