No. No. No.
I am officially calling time on this whole let-split-the-last-book-in-a-lucrative-franchise malarkey. It didn’t work with Harry Potter, and it doesn’t work with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. There is absolutely no clear and compelling artistic reason to split the novel. Let’s call a spade a spade and recognise that this has been done purely to rip off audiences.
Of course, that isn’t to say the whole to-be-continued thing can’t work. The trick is to make a satisfying film in its own right with a proper ending. For example, The Empire Strikes Back finishes with unresolved plot threads, but no-one comes out of the cinema feeling short changed because it has a proper climax. Mockingjay Part 1 does not. Oh, it tries to. Screenwriters Peter Craig and Danny Strong, and director Francis Lawrence valiantly attempt to forge some extra action and something resembling a conclusion, but ultimately there is no escaping the fact that this is an adaptation of half a book – a book that should never have been split in two. Suzanne Collins’ fantastic novels deserve better.
That said, there is praiseworthy stuff here. Jennifer Lawrence is terrific, particularly in the hugely dramatic “if we burn, you burn with us” scene. She is ably supported by heavyweights like the late great Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci and the always good value Jeffrey Wright. The Lawrence behind the camera conjures an appropriate mood of dystopian gloom, and the film at least attempts to say vaguely interesting things about the nature of propaganda. But in the end, this third instalment – which picks up directly after the Quarter Quell games of the previous film, in the rebel District 13 – feels like much ado about nothing. In a bunker. Given what is to come in Part 2 (including an absolutely fantastic, hugely satisfying finale), the collective groan that arose from the audience as the credits rolled felt like an entirely justifiable expression of outrage.
Of course, this will still prove to be a hit. If like me you want to see these films in the cinema then obviously there is no choice but to kowtow to the bean counters with the full knowledge that we are, in effect, paying for the same film twice.