Don't worry: If you come out of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 thinking, "Was that it?" you're not alone. It was exciting, it was heart-wrenching, but... it just felt like there was something missing. In fact, I'll go so far as to say Mockingjay, Part 1 is the weakest movie in the Hunger Games franchise so far. Before everyone gets super mad at me, I have to clarify something: "Weakest" doesn't mean "terrible." There's plenty about Mockingjay, Part 1 to recommend.
I could watch (mini-spoiler alert) Haymitch's slow-clap entrance on a loop all day. It was nice — if bittersweet — to see Philip Seymour Hoffman in a movie again. And, of course, Jennifer Lawrence kicks ass, as usual. Plus, it's always been interesting to pull back and see how the society of Panem works outside of the actual Hunger Games. This is even better in the movies than it is in the books, since the movies aren't as wedded to Katniss' point of view.
But, even with all of that going for it, it's still the worst entry in the franchise so far. I have at least 10 reasons that prove it. I will list them now, but first I have to state the obvious: There are spoilers ahead, for both the book and the movie. If you haven't seen or read it yet, turn away and come back after you have.
With that out of the way, here's why the movie is the weakest in the franchise.
It's Only Half the Story
Mockingjay wasn't meant to be divided into two. If it was, then author Suzanne Collins would have made it into two books. When Mockingjay, Part 1 ends, it doesn't feel like you've watched a movie with its own beginning, middle, and end. You feel like you've watched half a movie and turned it off.
There's an Anti-Climax
The ending of the film feels totally off. It seems like there should be a gripping action sequence, but the rescuing of Peeta is strangely tensionless. Soldiers from District 13 fly in to the Capitol with no trouble. When they get there, it's mostly empty. They don't have to fight anyone. And the Capitol secretly wants them to bring Peeta back to Katniss, so they grab him and leave with no troubles. And Katniss watches it all on TV. (Ho-hum.) There's a brief moment where you think they might've run into trouble — which you don't see on-screen — but, no, everything goes smoothly. It doesn't make the blood pump, that's for sure.
Actually, They All Watch Too Much TV
So much of Mockingjay has to do with Katniss' propaganda and The Capitol's responses to it (moves and counter-moves), that a lot of the movie is watching people watch things on screens. It could use some more action.
There's a Lot of Explaining to Do
If the District 13 Powers That Be aren't watching a broadcast, they're explaining to Katniss some information they've acquired off-screen while she was stuck inside. Or she was explaining to someone else an idea that was part of her inner monologue in the book. ("I didn't realize until I saw the stupid cat." Just, ugh.) You get the sense that you're hearing the true story of the movie second-hand.
Katniss Looks Dowdy
She spends most of the beginning of the movie wearing ill-fitting coveralls. Even when she gets Cinna's supposedly beautiful Mockingjay uniform, it looks like the coveralls plus half a bulletproof vest. If you're waiting for a "girl on fire" dress moment, you can skip this movie entirely.
And So Does Poor Effie
Though I have to admit, down-on-her-luck Effie is kind of amazing. ("Everything old can be made new again — even democracy." That may be the best line in the film.) But, when she says she misses her wigs, I do, too.
Katniss Doesn't Ask to Kill Snow
What, she's too noble to be motivated by revenge now?
Gale Is Still Emo
Gale is around a lot, but barely gets to speak — and, when he does, it's full of feels about how Katniss doesn't love him unless he's in pain. Sad trombone.
There's Barely Any Johanna
And there should always be Johanna.
Most of It Takes Place in a Bunker
District 13 may be safe from the Capitol's prying eyes, but it's not beautiful. Gone are those pretty-but-foreboding stretches of wilderness where the Games take place. Concrete walls just aren't as interesting to look at. They'll spend more time in bunkers and tunnels in Mockingjay, Part 2, but at least they'll get to the Capitol at the end.