Tuesday, 11 November 2014

'Mockingjay - Part 1' Early Review Roundup - Thrilling; But "Feels Like Half A Movie"


Please be aware the reviews may contain SPOILERS so read them at your own risk - this roundup is spoiler-free.

The floodgates for Mockingjay - Part 1 reviews have opened late last night as the embargo lifted following the film's world premiere in London. As of 10 hours following the release - the film currently stands with an 86% approval rating (86% of reviews are positive) on Rotten Tomatoes after 14 reviews, and a "generally favourable" but mixed score of 64 on Metacritic after 7 reviews. By comparison The Hunger Games finished with 84% and Catching Fire with 89% on RT, and THG finished with 67 and CF with 75 on Metacritic.

The majority of the reviews are once again praising Jennifer Lawrence's performance as our Mockingjay, Katniss; but the real standout this time around looks to be Julianne Moore with her performance as President Alma Coin. From Variety's review:
"Moore’s Coin unsurprisingly emerges as the ensemble’s [most valuable player], her steely intelligence and no-nonsense leadership marking her as yet another manifestation of the franchise’s refreshing gender politics, even as the film slyly encourages us not to judge her or her subordinates by the apparent righteousness of their cause." - Variety
Overall, the response is positive, but more mixed than the previous two films - with critics from the more high-brow publications like The Hollywood Reporter and The Guardian are being more critical of the film, mostly due to the 'half-finished feel' as a Part 1, which is a sentiment echoed across a lot of the reviews, with some positive outlook though.
"Like an overgrown and bloated trailer for a film yet to come, Francis Lawrence's The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 spreads perhaps 45 minutes of dramatic material across two far-too-leisurely hours. Unfortunately, [it] has all the personality of an industrial film. There's not a drop of insolence, insubordination or insurrection running through its veins; it feels like a manufactured product through and through, ironic and sad given its revolutionary theme." - THR
The film ends abruptly. You can’t help but wonder if it would have made more sense to release Mockingjay as a single feature rather than split it into two. Part 1 matches its predecessors in terms of performance and production values but still feels like half a movie. - The Independent
"This is basically the third time that we’ve seen the whole 'split the final book into two movies' gimmick, and this is frankly the first time I believe said choice has done the material an artistic disservice. [...] The acting is solid and there are interesting moments and beats throughout, but the film sadly feels like the first part of a two-part television series finale, with all of the proverbial 'good stuff' held in reserve for the theoretical final showdown." - Forbes
"As the Part 1 in the title suggests, this first half of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay doesn’t really provide any big conclusions or complete any arcs, but this lacking only slightly undercuts what the film adds to the franchise as a whole. There’s a great deal of smart thematic and character work that adds to the world of The Hunger Games, and will only serve to get fans more excited for the story’s conclusion." - Cinema Blend 
"I will likely never watch The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 on its own after initial release. It simply isn’t a full movie, and it will clearly work better with another two hours appended to it. That said, I didn’t walk out as deeply dissatisfied as I did after Deathly Hallows 1, and I found this movie’s cliffhanger to only grow in my head in the days after I saw it. At first I found the ending point incredibly irritating - that’s it? - but as I’ve thought about the implications I’ve become excited to discover what it will mean in the finale. That Part 1 is unfulfilling in total isn’t because of director Francis Lawrence or the screenwriters who adapted Suzanne Collins’ novel - it’s because of the marketing guys who made the choice to cut this movie in half. If Part 2 satisfactorily knocks down the dominoes this film has set up, in twenty years we won’t even think twice about their release pattern." - Badass Digest

There were also some criticisms of the lack of action and the mostly sombre tone - but it can be said it is to be expected given the events in the first half of the book.
"This is a movie saturated with despair and grief, and there’s very little comfort available. Yes, that’s exactly what you’d expect if you’ve read the book, but it’s hard to defend that decision from a cinematic point of view." - Den of Geek
But there are a lot of extremely positive raves from publications with audiences closer to the films' fanbase, with Digital Spy calling it the franchise's The Empire Strikes Back.
"Mockingjay Part 1 is a powerful, moving, penultimate chapter. While Francis Lawrence luxuriates in the extended runtime afforded by a two part finale he never pads the narrative" - HeyUGuys
"Who would have thought The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 would have more in common with the Fredrick Zoller story in Inglorious Basterds than the first two Hunger Games? It’s a very welcome surprise and really gives the film a lot of cool directions to go in. The rough beginning and slightly disappointing ending do hurt the film a bit but never the less, the middle builds crazy momentum and earns huge points for aspiring to be something more. In the end, the fact millions of kids are going to watch a movie about the role of media is so crazy you have to give it credit." - SlashFilm
"Mockingjay is the fulfillment of the journey that the initial two stories set Katniss Everdeen on. Splitting the book in two means that the first film will inherently feel incomplete. However, this is a strong installment in the franchise. Designed to translate complex notions into a story that works for young adult audiences, The Hunger Games series has more than succeeded in its task." - IGN 
Our friends at Jabberjays.net were also the first fansite to join this early wave of reviews, with both their reviews, unsurprisingly, being very positive:
"Mockingjay Part 1 finally finds the ground the series has been looking for; this feels like Francis Lawrence has done his “crossover film” from Gary Ross and is now really showing us what he’s made of. This will thrill fans of the books and the films alike, whilst preparing for the ultimate showdown in Part 2." (x)
"I don’t think Mockingjay Part 1 will have the same emphatic gut reaction that Catching Fire had on audiences. But it’s hard to judge the merits of this outing without having seen its conclusion next year. Hopefully we could be on track to a perfect set of popular, thought-provoking and entertaining films." (x)
And the above reviews do confirm that there is something at the end of the credits...

Stay tuned as more reviews arrive in the next few days ahead of the release!

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