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Mockingjay - Part 1 Film Review
After the strong start and superior sequel this follow-up is such an anti-climax, playing out as little more than an extended PR campaign for Part 2's revolution.The decision to adapt the final Hunger Games novel into two films is an unnecessary money-driven expansion of a story better served by a trilogy of films. With a narrative that simply doesn’t need to be told, Mockingjay Part. 1 plays out as little more than a selection of deleted scenes; the likes of which you’d maybe watch once on home viewing, and then never revisit again. The film manages to waste two whole hours, and actually only begins in the final few minutes. It should have begun with a daring night assault, intercut with news broadcast footage of the ongoing propaganda campaign war being waged between the Capitol and the Rebels, but instead dedicates the entire movie to a tension-less series of propaganda efforts, as District 13 President Coin wields her new Mockingjay as a hero for the revolution against President Snow’s Peeta.After two films of consistent performances, even the acting doesn’t hold up this time around, with the late Hoffman missing the mark, but the real shame coming from the zero chemistry between Lawrence and Hemsworth, and from the fact that Lawrence herself appears to have lost a grip on her character, all of which combines to take the series down to almost Twilight levels of low when it comes to the emotional theatrics. The character development is incremental at best, and could have easily been covered using tighter editing and better direction – a shock considering Francis Lawrence did such a great job with Catching Fire and perfectly balanced an hour of political intrigue and building the revolution, with an hour of action-with-consequence. Indeed there’s absolutely no reason for the same man who already built the foundation for a revolution to then dedicate an entire movie to further building the revolution.
Blu-ray Picture QualityLionsgate’s Region B-locked Blu-ray release of Mockingjay: Part 1 hits UK shores complete with an excellent 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video transfer, framed in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen, which handles the material efficiently and precisely, and provides us with a demo presentation.
Intentionally much more drab than its predecessors in both look and tone, this is still a faithful and impressive presentation.
Detail is strong throughout, with some superior close-up shots affording us fine object work which takes in every freckle, every pore, every out of place hair and every wrinkle. The mid-range work handles the propaganda campaign with aplomb, balancing the varying colour grading offered up in the key locations well, whilst the war-torn landscapes pop with meticulous destruction. Shadow detail is impressive in the darker sequences – and this chapter is far from perpetually bathed in light – with black levels remaining strong and consistent throughout.
Blu-ray Sound QualityThe accompanying Dolby Atmos track is an all-engulfing effort that includes a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core. Whatever reservations you might have about the momentum or significance of the story itself, the track keeps you engaged at an aural level with impressive raid attacks, propaganda interviews, in-warzone commentary, and thunderous underground tremors. Even when things aren’t shaking or blowing up, the surrounds get a fair amount of input from fine observation of the most subtle elements, with acute directionality imposed by some sterling sound design work. Dialogue rises above and remains clear and coherent throughout, disseminated from the frontal array, whilst the surrounds and LFE channel remain consistently active across the proceedings, with the score further keeping the speaker array active. Overall, whilst not a pervasively and persistently bombastic offering, it’s precise, potent and demo-worthy nonetheless.
Whilst the action comes fairly intermittently across the runtime the track manages to still retain a constant all-encompassing feel.
Additional Dolby Atmos audio review from Steve Withers: Mockingjay - Part 1 is the latest Blu-ray release to include a Dolby Atmos soundtrack. We reviewed this Blu-ray with a 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos configuration, which meant that along with the usual seven channels and subwoofer, we had four overhead channels - two at the front and two at the rear. To achieve this we used a Denon AVR-X7200 AV receiver combined with a Cambridge Audio Azur 651W power amplifier to add the extra two channels. The results were absolutely stunning, with Mockingjay - Part 1 delivering the best Atmos soundtrack that we have heard to date. There are the more obvious effects with hover craft flying overhead and sounds being accurately steered around the room, creating a genuine sense of immersion.
However, there are plenty of scenes where the sound designers take full advantage of the additional channels to really place you in the scene. When entering a hover craft or when they take off and land, the sounds completely surround you in highly realistic sense. A scene where Katniss and Gale are out hunting allows the 7.1.4 mix to make you feel totally immersed in the forest. However the stand-out scene is the bombing of District 13, where the sounds of explosions come from overhead, making you feel that you are down in those tunnels. The LFE is also every well employed during these scenes, rocking the foundations of the room but always feeling perfectly integrated into the rest of the sound mix. Although despite all these effects and this low-end action, the centre channel always remains focused, keeping dialogue clear.
Blu-ray ExtrasMockingjay Part 1’s extras are comprehensive; covering all the bases. Headlined by a strong audio commentary by director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson, who spend much of their time talking about the ‘necessary’ build-up to the second part (and forgetting that this was actually unnecessary, when we’d already had the build-up in the last instalment) and dipping into interesting production details and background titbits.
The Hunger Games franchise has rarely let you down when it comes to the supplemental packages, and this is no exception.
The real meat, though, comes from The Mockingjay Lives: The Making of Mockingjay Part 1, which is a stunning little feature-length multi-part documentary that rivals the main feature itself in terms of duration, and is split up to cover every single aspect of the production, with segments on – 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; and Straight from the Heart: A Tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman. Fans couldn’t have wanted more, and yet they’ll still get some, with the disc rounded off by Music Videos, Soundtrack Promos, 12 minutes of Deleted Scenes (none of which would have saved the film) and some Previews.
Mockingjay - Part 1 Blu-ray VerdictThere are so many missteps in this film it’s hard to believe that it went down this way, given the films before. This is two hours of waiting for something to happen (and it does, ten minutes from the end). It was such a Hobbit-esque money-driven waste; it would have been better to wait and get a three hour complete Mockingjay rather than be offering this anticlimactic extended prelude in the interim.
Hunger Games has been a breath of fresh air, sadly this latest entry is a disappointment but at least the package is recommended.
At least the release is excellent, with strong video and audio, as well as an extensive selection of extras, leaving this a must-have purchase for both fans of the film and, more likely, fans of the franchise who won’t stand for a missing chapter when it comes to completing the set. Here’s hoping that the second part makes up for this one’s shortcomings though.
You can buy The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 on Blu-ray here
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