‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1’ Reviews: Best or Worst Installment Yet?

The answer to that question depends on who you ask

Last Updated: November 19, 2014 @ 9:23 AM

Jennifer Lawrence returns as blockbuster heroine Katniss Everdeen this weekend when “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” hits theaters, and fans probably won’t be disappointed with what they see.

The third installment in the Lionsgate franchise, based on auther Suzanne Collins‘ best-selling novel trilogy, is getting mostly positive feedback from critics. So far, the sequel focusing on the beginning of the Rebellion’s revolution against the Capitol has been declared 73 percent “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes. But with only 41 reviews counted so far, that percentage could sway.

The praise it is receiving, however, suggests it will swing in favor of the film TheWrap‘s Alonso Duralde found to be a satisfying entry, before all hell breaks loose in the final chapter hitting theaters this time next year.

“Suffice it to say that while ‘Mockingjay, Part 1’ might not be as consistently thrilling as ‘Catching Fire’ — the second movie always has the luxury of being all PB&J and no crust — it’s the movie equivalent of a page-turner, consistently suspenseful and filled with surprises and illuminating character moments,” Duralde wrote in his review. “The title lets you know we’re still one more movie away from the grand finale, but even if ‘Mockingjay, Part 1’ leaves us wanting more, it’s not just two hours of build-up. Think of it as an amuse-bouche for a final course that manages to satisfy on its own.”

Vulture‘s David Edelstein thought it was “really good” for a number of reasons, including its “bleak” tone, “harsh” depiction of war, and Lawrence’s stellar performance.

“What works most smashingly is the movie’s meta side. Much of ‘Mockingjay’ centers on selling. In the film, the rebels sell a revolutionary icon, Katniss in her Mockingjay wings clutching a bow and arrow. But it’s hard not to think — I’m pretty sure the screenwriters and director Francis Lawrence did — of how Lionsgate is madly selling our nation’s No. 1, nobody-doesn’t-love-her female movie star,” Edelstein wrote. “Lawrence’s instincts are so smart that she never goes even a shade overboard. She’s a hell of an actress.”

TimeOut London critic Cath Clarke applauded the franchise aimed at a young adult audience for growing up by tackling “deeper and darker” themes as Katniss reunites with Gale (Liam Hemsworth) to do battle, while Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) remains a prisoner of President Snow (Donald Sutherland) in the Capitol.

“While it definitely takes its foot off the action, ‘Mockingjay – Part 1’ goes deeper and darker. Any darker they’d have to give out Prozac with the popcorn or offer counselling to traumatised 13-year-olds,” Clarke wrote. “The politics of ‘Mockingjay’ are as intensely gripping as the games in the earlier films – and more deadly. And for a film targeting teen girls, who will be half-watching, half-texting their mates to tell them that they’re watching, ‘Mockingjay’ might just have more to say about the ethical ambiguities of war than Brad Pitt‘s pseudo-thinking war drama ‘Fury.'”

IGN critic Roth Cornet thought the film served audience well as both “an engaging piece of entertainment” and “a deconstruction of what a hero is or is meant to be.”

“This is a strong installment in the franchise,” Cornet wrote. “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. ‘Mockingjay – Part 1’ is both the tale of a young woman caught in an impossible web that others continue to weave for her and an intimate look at war.”

For those who are convinced “The Hunger Games” franchise isn’t as good as the $1.5 billion box office receipts suggest it is, Time critic Richard Corliss is on your side. Despite A-list supporting players including the late Philip Seymour Hoffman and Julianne Moore, plus “Game of Thrones” star Natalie Dormer, he wasn’t impressed by performances or the writing that informed them.

“The distinguished actors, including Oscar winners Lawrence and Hoffman, often deliver their dialogue in a flat, disengaged tone, as if at a first reading. And though we still believe that Lawrence, who turned 25 in August, can do no wrong, she isn’t given much opportunity to do anything spectacularly right here,” Corliss Her performance is a medley of sobs and gasps, in mournful or radiant closeup. This time, her Katniss is as much a prisoner of her circumstances as Peeta is. She and the movie are both victims of burnout.”

New York Post critic Lou Lumenick complained about all that and more in his review of what he considered to be the dullest “Hunger Games” movie yet.

“How do you waste one of the most exciting young actresses of our time — not to mention the time and money of millions of moviegoers? Lumenick wrote. “‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1’ accomplishes this by turning Jennifer Lawrence’s groundbreaking woman warrior, Katniss Everdeen, into pretty much a spectator in this insufferably dull penultimate installment, which thinly spreads a half-hour’s worth of plot over two plodding hours.”

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