The Hunger Games films have been a phenomenal success for Lionsgate and have far exceeded all expectations. It came as little surprise the when the studio announced the third and final book in Susanne Collins' franchise would be split into two films, and Mockingjay Part 1 is the first part which we are reviewing now.
After the destruction of games in Catching Fire Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is now living in District 13 - an underground district which, with the guidance of President Coin (Julianne Moore), soon becomes the heartland of the rebellion with Katniss deemed to be the symbol of the uprising - the Mockingjay. With Peeta working for President Snow and trying to quell the uprising through propaganda videos Katniss is soon performing the same task for the uprising.
Splitting the final film in two parts is quite obviously a bit of a money grab - all three novels are of a very similar length - indeed there is only about 20 pages difference between each novel - and as they detail in the bonus features of this film, the filmmakers actually added some scenes to the film to help tell more backstory. As a result the film feels a little light on when it comes to action although we have to praise the way in which the film focuses on the importance of propaganda, just as it is a key in winning the minds in conflicts in the world today.
While J-Law carries this film the supporting cast are all superb in their own roles. These actors include Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Jeffrey Wright, Natalie Dormer, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, and Donald Sutherland. There is of course one more actor who this film is dedicated to - Philip Seymour Hoffman. As most would know he passed away during the filming of these final two films (fortunately the vast majority of his scenes had been shot and are included in the film. It's bittersweet seeing him on the screen, but fortunately at least these films are a fitting farewell.
While the first two films were similar in theme, this third outing is a big departure and becomes much more about growth of the resistance against the capital. While there are some action sequences we feel this third film is more about the setup for what should be a fantastic finale later this year.
As expected The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is a pretty stunning film visually and artistically and the Blu-Ray transfer is presented in the film’s original 2.40:1 aspect ratio and encoded with the AVC MPEG-4 codec. We have to admit however that this Blu-Ray transfer is a little underwhelming. While much of the film takes place in dimly lit areas or colour deprived battlefields the image, at times, looks a little compressed and lacking detail. There are other times, however, when the images are absolutely stunning with hair on Katniss or President Snow's beard looking amazing.
There are also a few moments in the film which look a little, well, bizarre, however we'll put it down to the original production rather than the Blu-Ray transfer. At one point, for instance, Katniss is walking through the underground bunker looking for her sister Prim, but it looks like the film has been sped up. Perhaps it has, but it looks a little weird. We also had a couple of brief moments where the video seemd to skip or have momentary compression errors. They were so brief most people wouldn't notice, but were there. It could of course be our PS3 playing up (seems unlikley as we have never had other issues) or, more likely, our test disc which isn't from the final production run.
As for the actual audio mix - well we listened to all formats but focused on the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track to best match our system, and it's a cracker of a mix with clear dialogue and music throughout. While there wasn't a much action in the film as we expected, when the action does heat up such as the battle near the hospital, or the bombing of the District 13 underground base the surround sound channels, and sub-woofer will roar to life.
The disc contains only a single subtitle track which is English SDH (Descriptive Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired) which is accurate to the dialogue and audio in the film.
Before hitting the main menu on the disc you will see trailers for The Best Of Me (1:38),Annie (2:06), and St Vincent (2:26) each of which is skippable if you wish. Beyond that there are a considerable number of extras on this 2-disc set (although JB Hi-Fi have another issue with even more extras - however most would be more then satisfied with what is in this release).
Audio Commentary with Director Francis Lawrence and Producer Nina Jacobson: This is a pretty decent audio track that adds much more detail to the shooting of the film, the performances from the actors, details to the storyline, comparisons to the book, and much more. It's pretty non-stop and worth a listen if you enjoy audio commentaries.
Straight From The Heart: A Tribute To Philip Seymour Hoffman (11:02/HD): Cast and crew share stories and fond memories of Philip who passed away during the filming of this film and the upcoming final film.
Songs of Rebellion: Lorde on Curating the Soundtrack (8:09/HD): Lorde discusses her thoughts on creating the soundtrack for the film including the theme song.
Lorde "Yellow Flicker Beat" Music Video (4:03/HD): A music video clip for the haunting song by Lorde.
Deleted Scenes (11:19/HD): Presented here are nine deleted scenes titled "Katniss & Boggs Walk Through District 13", "Katniss Leaves District 12", "Beetee Reaches District 8", "I'm Not Asking", "Hummingbirds", "Face of a Revolution", "We're Still in the Game", "Snow Sees Propo" and "Cressida Preps Katniss & Gale". It's clear the see why most scenes were cut for pacing, however some scenes were solid, and perhaps important, enough to have remained in the film such as "Beetee Reaches District 8", or "I'm Not Asking" which shows some of the backstory to Peeta and President Snow.
The Mockingjay Lives: The Making of Mockingjay: Part 1 (2:14:00/HD): Deservedly getting its own Blu-Ray disc this documentary is simply phenomenal as it details the entire production of this film, from pre-production, to film and post production. If you wanted to know anything about this film then it will likley be in this documentary which is split into 8 parts the titles of which give a good idea about what to expect. The segments of this documentary include "Hope and Rebellion: Continuing the Saga", "Fusing Form and Function: Costume and Design", "Perfecting Panem: The Post Production Process", "Fighting the System: Shooting on Location", "Rebellion Tactics: Stunts & Special Effects", "Rebels and Warriors: The Cast", "Designing Dystopia: Visual Aesthetic", and "Take Back Our Future: Reflections & Looking Forward".
Review By: Dave Warner