When Jennifer Lawrence gets fired up, she commands the screen, demanding attention with the vigor of her voice and the determined look on her face. She may be angry in that moment, or coquettish, or mournful, or sympathetic, but whatever her emotion might be signaling, underneath that is a steely composure that refuses to allow her to capitulate.
Now just 24 years of age, Lawrence turns in her third go-round as Katniss Everdeen in the latest installment of the wildly popular book-to-screen series The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1. Katniss is recovering from the events in the previous episode, Catching Fire, and so is everyone else. Her call to rebellion against the oppressive central government led by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) led to widespread death and destruction.
While uprest continues, Katniss has been kept safe in an underground facility, but now is the time for a propaganda message to be delivered in order to rouse the people toward continued rebellion, leading to overthrow of the government. Katniss eventually accepts the role of spokesperson, working under the direction of President Coin (Julianne Moore) accepting advice from Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and receiving technical assistance from Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), as well as filming direction from Cressida (Natalie Dormer) and costume / hair / makeup advice from Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks). In addition, Katniss receives emotional support from her friend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), her younger sister Primrose (Willow Shields), her other friend Finnick (Sam Claflin), and her old trainer Haymitch (Woody Harrelson).
That’s a lot of advisors for one media star, and it’s representative of the nature of the film as a whole. The decision was made to split Suzanne Collins’ novel into two separate films, and while writers Peter Craig and Danny Strong have worked diligently to fill the running time with incidents and a considerable amount of deliberation, Mockingjay – Part 1 adds up to little more than a time-wasting episode.
Director Francis Lawrence stages the action and the talking in a satisfying if conventional manner, but there’s no getting around the essential problem of nothingness that is at the heart of the story. For those who are dedicated followers of the series, the lugubrious concentration on details may be most refreshing. For everyone else, it creates a great hunger for the series to actually, finally conclude.
The film opens wide throughout North Texas on Friday, November 21.