Muted ‘Mockingjay’ lacks clarity, momentum

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Do I need to add “spoiler alert” to a review of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” if I warn that “nothing happens?”

One has to be truly invested in the trilogy of young adult novels by Suzanne Collins, or the two previous films based on them, to be mildly entertained by this placeholder.Like the “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” franchises the producers double down on the final entry, turning the final book into two films and exploiting the fan base in the process. The result is quantity at the expense of clarity and momentum.

mockingjayThe dramatically turgid and blandly generic, “Mockingjay” is doubly cursed. It also features one of the final film appearances by Philip Seymour Hoffman, to whom the film is dedicated, it is hard to see him and not think of the loss.

He died during production, reportedly with just two more scenes left to film. Those scenes were given to other actors, and director Francis Lawrence said that no digital “trickery” was involved in his performance.

“The Hunger Games” is set in a repressive society where young people are put in a kill-or-be-killed televised competition.

But the games are rigged and Katniss, the winner played by Jennifer Lawrence, becomes a symbol of resistance against the white bearded tyrant Donald Sutherland.

It’s easy to lose the narrative thread of a series that began in 2012 and that “Mockingjay” offers no recap of events suggests it is only interested in appealing to the already converted.

It begins as Lawrence awakens in the rebels underground hideout and with efforts by its president played by Julianne Moore and Hoffman’s propagandist to make her the Mockingjay, or the symbol of resistance. Sutherland, meanwhile, turned her boyfriend from the games, played by Josh Hutcherson, into his own propaganda puppet.

These chess moves, dazed Katniss shaking off her trauma and the underground bunker setting lead to muffled and low energy effort that is presumably a prelude to a more explosive finale, that won’t be released until November of 2015.

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