The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 Blu-ray Review

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) transforms into a different kind of pawn in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, one-half of a book that suffers from the absence of its riveting namesake, “The Hunger Games,” and cannot escape the pitfalls of being “Part 1” of 2.

When we last saw Katniss, she had been scooped by Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) from the quarter quell after having witnessed Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and two other tributes being seemingly left for dead. She awakened to learn that District 12, her home, had been bombed, and the look on her face in the final shot was one of determination, anger and revenge.

I expected Mockingjay – Part 1 to pick up on this theme and instead Katniss is reintroduced as a conflicted victim whose heart is broken at the thought of Peeta’s death. She spends the majority of the film agonizing over the use of Peeta as a propaganda tool by President Snow (Donald Sutherland), while initially refusing to be a pawn for propaganda spots by Plutarch and President Coin (Julianne Moore) simply because she cannot fathom what has happened to Peeta and her realization that she truly loves him.

The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 Blu-ray cover artWhere the first two Hunger Games films built into the life-or-death games and extremely high stakes, Mockingjay – Part 1 meanders through a cat-and-mouse game between Coin and Snow with Peeta and Katniss serving as their puppets. Both Lawrence and Hutcherson are great with the new dramatic material they’re given with Lawrence especially rising to the occasion. It’s hard to get excited about the final act when Lawrence is relegated to a chat with President Snow over a closed circuit feed while a military operation unfolds without her presence.

Author Suzanne Collins didn’t write Mockingjay as a two-part story and nowhere is that more evident than when Mockingjay – Part 1 abruptly comes to a close. There’s nothing redeeming about the cutting point that is nothing more than an intentional downer. At least The Empire Strikes Back offered a direction of where the Star Wars saga was headed next after an Empire victory. Mockingjay – Part 1 ends at the equivalent of Leia watching Han being lowered into the carbonite freezing chamber.

As far as young adult films go, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 still sets a bar higher than any other franchise is likely to reach anytime soon despite its narrative woes. The production is lavish, visual effects mostly seamless including some great shots early on when District 13’s hidden underground base is initially explored, and direction and acting superb. I hope to better judge its story after seeing Part 2 and examining both films as one whole.

Lionsgate understands that The Hunger Games is their bread and butter right now and that respect carries forward into the Blu-ray release with excellent Capitol propaganda menus that carry forward into the pre-main menu previews. It’s a great touch and helps set the mood for the film.

In keeping in tune with the previous two Hunger Games films on Blu-ray, Mockingjay – Part 1 has an excellent 1080p video transfer with no major gripes worth nothing. The audio side, however, gets an upgrade with a Dolby Atmos mix that not only provides the coolest pre-movie surround sound check, but excellent audio that any system capable of decoding Dolby TrueHD will be capable of handling.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 Natalie Dormer

Natalie Dormer does nothing more than look unusually cool in Part 1

Bonus features are plentiful and fan serving including a ten-plus minute tribute to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman that should be any viewer’s first stop. There are also over 10 minutes worth of deleted scenes and a host of featurettes that, when viewed consecutively, make for a rather robust behind-the-scenes documentary on the film.

  • Audio Commentary with Director Francis Lawrence and Producer Nina Jacobson
  • The Mockingjay Lives: The Making of Mockingjay Part 1
    • Hope and Rebellion: Continuing the Saga
    • Designing Dystopia: Visual Aesthetic
    • Rebels and Warriors: The Cast
    • Fusing Form and Function: Costume, Make-Up and Hair
    • Fighting the System: Shooting on Location
    • D13: Rebellion Tactics: Stunts and Special Effects
    • Perfecting Panem: The Post-Production Process
  • Straight from the Heart: A Tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman
  • Songs of Rebellion: Lorde on Creating the Soundtrack
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Divergent: Insurgent Sneak Preview

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 successfully sets out to push Katniss Everdeen to her utmost low before the final act can commence. By doing so, and without the actual Hunger Games to propel the story forward, Mockingjay – Part 1 is tonally different from its predecessors and suffers from narrative stagnation as a result.

Lionsgate’s Blu-ray, on the other hand, is almost everything you would expect given this franchise’s draw. It’s the total package unlike the film that’s only half the story told.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1 Blu-ray Review
out of 5

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