The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 *

Is it worth $10? No

It is an insult – an appalling, avaricious insult – to ask moviegoers to pay hard earned money and give them nothing in return. So little happens in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” that it should be skipped altogether without a second thought. This movie is deplorable. I hated every second of it.

This is not the first time a mega-franchise has split the final installment of its finale into two parts, and it will not be the last (the third “Avengers” movie will do the same). But this strategy didn’t work for “Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part One” nor “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One,” so there’s little reason to think it would work here. And it doesn’t. Oh boy it doesn’t.

We already know there’s no ending. “Part 2” doesn’t open until November 2015. Fine. What was it, then, about Suzanne Collins’ “Mockingjay” book, the third and final entry of “The Hunger Games” trilogy, that made Lionsgate believe it had two good movies at hand? It certainly isn’t the story. The slowest part of Collins’ trilogy is the first half of “Mockingjay,” and true to form almost nothing of consequence occurs in director Francis Lawrence’s film.

Here’s everything in a snapshot: Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) doesn’t want to lead the rebellion against President Snow (a slithery Donald Sutherland). She strikes a deal with rebel leaders Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman): In exchange for rescuing captured Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) from the Capitol, Katniss will be their Mockingjay rebel leader figurehead.

And that’s it. That’s all that happens. And if you didn’t already know that was going to happen based on how the last film, “Catching Fire,” ended, you’ve clearly never been to the movies.

The action is nominal and uninspired. There are naturally fewer pyrotechnics without the glitz of the Hunger Games arena, but that’s no excuse for the supposedly up-tempo sequences to play so stale. Francis Lawrence, writers Danny Strong and Peter Craig, and costume designers Kurt and Bart (really, that’s how they’re credited), who have the ensemble in the most unflattering green jumpsuits you can imagine, are all to blame for the movie’s unconscionable dullness.

Lionsgate’s true motivating factor in splitting “Mockingjay,” of course, is money. If you can get people to pay twice for a single product, the decision makes sense from a business perspective. But from a fan’s perspective, it ruins the story. They’re splitting something into two parts that isn’t meant for two parts, and in the process dragging out scenes, adding new ones, and writing new ones for characters who are barely in the book (with all due respect to Elizabeth Banks, get Effie the hell off the screen).

Everything that happens over 123 minutes could’ve been accomplished in a little more than a half hour if Lionsgate did things the right way. Instead we get Katniss still reluctant to be the Mockingjay, still unsure of her feelings for Gale (Liam Hemsworth), still in love with Peeta, and still tormented by President Snow. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is essentially where “Catching Fire” left off, and so little progress forward is made that Francis Lawrence’s movie could not be a bigger waste of time.

So here’s what you do: It’s the holidays. Take the ten dollars you were going to spend to see this and give it to charity. I guarantee you’ll feel better about giving to a good cause than you will if you waste money on the disappointment of this dreck. What’s more, not giving money to the theater will send a loud and clear message to Hollywood that this greedy practice of splitting movies into two parts must end, and it must end now.

A final, apropos note: Early in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1,” Katniss journeys to District 12 and collects things from her old home. About an hour later she returns and collects more things, for no better reason than that which prompted her first trip. In other words, a full hour goes by and nothing changes or happens. If that isn’t reflective of the entire film, nothing is.

Did you know?

Philip Seymour Hoffman died in February 2014 with roughly a week’s worth of filming remaining on his schedule. His performance was finished with re-writes (Plutarch’s scenes/lines were given to someone else) and visual effects.

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