Warning: Spoilers May Follow
I hate to be so harsh on a franchise that I have adored, but Mockingjay Part 1 could have been a lot better. Granted, the makers did what they could with the film only encompassing the first half of a book, but that is the first bullet point to my review.
They Could Have Done It In One Part
The book Mockingjay has 390 pages. That might seem like a lot of pages, but Catching Fire, which was an awesome movie, has 391 pages. Catching Fire was well-balanced. It aptly captured the ever-changing life in the districts while brilliantly catching the torture and mayhem of the games. If they can make Catching Fire great, why make it's sequel (that's 1 page shorter no less) into two separate movies?
The easy answer that you will hear is that the book Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins, has two major events: the attack against District 13, and their retaliation against Panem. It seems that the filmmakers have decided to take the two separate parts and individualize them, so that no detail will be overlooked. There is one significant problem with that plan though.
Virtually nothing happens in the first half of the book. It can best be attributed with an episode of Once Upon A Time: the first nine-tenths are basically non-eventful until a monumental plot-twist at the end.
For those of you who have read the books or seen the movie, I can understand why you would instinctively disagree with me. Some major things happen in the first part. Katniss works to bring the districts together so that they can rebel against Panem, Panem attacks District 13, and Gale helps retrieve Peeta and the other victors. My problem is that all of this could have been easily condensed. If they shortened all of the time that Katniss spent walking around slowly taking in the sights, the movie time could have been cut in half.
This brings me to my next point...
Gale Was The Real Hero In Part 1
I understand that the books were written from Katniss' point of view, so naturally the film had to follow the same path. However, the movie would have been drastically better if the spotlight would have been on Gale.
The first really productive scene of the film was when Katniss, Gale, and a film crew went to District 11 to survey a hospital full of wounded. When Panem attacks the hospital, Katniss and Gale run out to defend it. Naturally, Katniss draws her bow and takes aim, but Gale steals the show by pulling out a crossbow and simultaneously shooting down fighters with explosive arrows. So Katniss is widely known for her archery skills, yet Gale is just as good of a shot.
Another major scene occurs when the the two of them return to the remains of District 12 with the film crew. When Cressida asks Katniss to explain what she's feeling, Gale interjects and shares the heart-wrenching tale of how he rescued as many people as he could before the District was bombed. The entire scene makes you think "Man, I wish that scene would have been in Catching Fire".
When District 13 is under fire and Katniss realizes that she can't find Prim, it's Gale to the rescue yet again as he runs down the stairs carrying her as they slip into the bunker.
Lastly but not least, when Katniss is off sobbing about the increasing probability of Peeta's death, Gale takes it upon himself to volunteer for a spec. ops team to go and retrieve him. Remind me, why isn't this movie about him.
Don't worry, there are some god things too!
As much as I have been picking on the movie, it isn't entirely bad. There are some real tear-jerking scenes throughout the film as the districts start to rebel. Every civilian casualty is just another twinge in your heart. I could barely make it through "The Hanging Tree" song without shedding a tear or two.
The movie is also spot-on with the book. With such catastrophic failures as Eragon and Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief, it's refreshing to know that some companies actually pay attention to the source material when they make their movie.
The casting choice is also remarkable. Natalie Dormer, who you might recognize as Margaery Tyrell from Game of Thrones, was a perfect choice for Cressida and Julianne Moore was everything that I was hoping President Coin would be.
Overall, I would advise you to go and see Mockingjay Part 1, but don't get your hopes up. The franchise has definitely taken a hit with this movie, but don't worry, I'm sure that Part 2 will set everything back the way it was.