Mockingjay Pt 1 (again)

2014, THE HUNGER GAMES -  MOCKINGJAYPrior to watching the recently released Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt.2 Blu-ray which closes out the Hunger Games saga, I’ve had to watch last year’s release of Mockingjay Pt.1 again, if only in the hope of then following what goes on in the second part. Funny thing is, that same logic would (you’d think) have required me to rewatch the first two Hunger Games films too- and yes, actually it would have helped, because I had a bit of a hard time getting back into Pt.1 as it was. But how much time do these film-makers and studios think we casual fans have to devote to their sagas?

Its the trouble with these serialised franchises if you aren’t familiar with the original source material or such a fan that you’ve re-watched installments several times and are wholly familiar with the storyline.  I’ve enjoyed the Hunger Games films, but I’ve bought the successive releases really out of curiousity of how the damn thing all turns out. It does raise the question of the demands these serialised films make on the audience- sure, die-hard fans will always be onboard and up to speed, but what mainstream ‘general’ audiences have to make of dipping into these movies is anyones guess. It also must inevitably impact on the quality/success of the individual films themselves. Are they supposed to function as separate entities or not?

I raised this in my original review of Pt 1 last March, and I’ll quote it here – in some ways its the most interesting of the Hunger Games series I’ve seen. But it is inevitably hamstrung by the decision, right or wrong, artistic or purely business-based, to split its original book’s story into two. Essentially Mockingjay is, by its very nature, the beginning and part-middle of a bigger story. There is no resolution here. Characters are being introduced, arcs being set up, that will not come to fruition until the second part. It makes for  very frustrating experience, especially in light of having to wait another year for the conclusion.

Re-watching Pt.1, I’m in that same position of not knowing where its all going but at least I’m nearer to that particular goal with Pt.2 now sitting by the Blu-ray player. Pt.1 remains a very interesting film and a surprisingly dark one too, but I guess its real value and success can only really be judged by having seen Pt.2 so we’ll see how that turns out. I appreciate that these grand sagas and their long stories can reward in ways that short one-off films cannot, but do think the patience of audiences must be getting strained by these annual episodes.

It raises the question of how much audiences will continue to accept the demands of serials like this. I’ve read that when Pt.2 was released theatrically last year its box-office was lower than earlier installments, an indication perhaps that audiences are tiring of such demands and serialised film-sagas in general. Logic might have expected a bigger or at least maintained audience since its the grand conclusion and everyone wants to see how it all turns out, but it doesn’t seem to have turned out that way. Or maybe some people were turned off by Pt.1 and its inevitably hamstrung anti-conclusion? Is a year too long to expect people to wait? Maybe some of the potential audience decided to just wait a little longer for the home video release and watch the whole saga as a box set rather than drop into the second part at the cinema.Maybe their patience will be rewarded by a superior viewing experience. In anycase, I’ve found myself in the strange position of being forced to rewatch a film in order to improve my enjoyment of the succeeding one, and actually found that I might have been better served by watching the previous two too.

We are living in the era of the box-set, and it’s getting quite exhausting.