Sunday, March 1, 2015

Video review: "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 1"


So once again, a big fantasy/science fiction book-to-film franchise is coming to a close, and has decided to split up the last novel into two movies. We’ve seen it a bunch of times now, from “Twilight” to “Harry Potter,” and invariably the penultimate movie winds up being rather a bore, stuffed with exposition that will only pay off in the final flick.

“The Hunter Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” – now there’s a mouthful – is no exception.

Mercifully shorter than its predecessors, “Mockingjay” nonetheless has a much lower thrills-to-doldrums ratio, with really only one major action sequence to carry the momentum. The rest of the time, it’s Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) adjusting to her new life in the underground fortress of the militaristic District 13, epicenter of the rebellion against the evil Capitol and President Snow.

As the story opens, Katniss has been rescued from the gladiator-style Hunger Games, in which comely teenagers battle to the death as entertainment and as a way to subjugate the Districts. But her partner and ersatz lover Peta (Josh Hutcherson) remains in the hands of Snow. This section of the story covers the rising battle of propaganda between the two sides, with Katniss enlisted as the symbol of the revolt.

She’s not fully accepted by the District 13 folks, particularly the cunning president, Alma Coin (Julianne Moore). Luckily there are a few familiar faces, including Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to offer counsel and prodding.

What’s made Katniss a compelling character in the other movies is that she’s a doer who takes a stand and then acts upon it – sometimes impulsively and disastrously, but always with genuine resolve. Here, she’s relegated to reacting and talking, and it makes for one dull parade.

Whatever I might think of the movie, it’s being released on video with a handsome set of bonus features.

These include a feature-length commentary track; nine deleted scenes; a tribute to Hoffman; music video and featurette; and “The Mockingjay Lives: The Making of Mockingjay – Part 1,” an eight-part feature-length documentary on the making of the film. All told, extras run to five hours of material.

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