'Mockingjay': A Tale In Two (Unnecessary) Parts

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 hits theaters this weekend amid mixed reviews, and early returns do not look promising. The final chapter in the saga of Katniss Everdeen and friends may be bogged down by an underwhelming story that was inexplicably broken into two parts.

Variety is reporting that while certain to be a financial success, Mockingjay - Part 1 is projecting far below expectations and significantly lower than the first two Hunger Games movies.

The third installment of the Hunger Games series reached $54 million on its first day, and predictions show the movie landing somewhere around $125 million for the weekend. These numbers are a significant drop over last year's $158 million for Catching Fire and $152 million for the original Hunger Games.

However, even with this drop off, a $125 million opening weekend would still put Mockingjay – Part 1 at the top of the list for 2014 openings.

Reviews have mostly been positive for Mockingjay. The film currently holds a 68 percent fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes. However, even amidst the positive reviews, some have called to question the decision to split Suzanne Collin's final Hunger Games book into two parts.

Grantland's Wesley Morris notes the only reason for the split is monetary and takes the studio to task for the film's confusing ending.

"There are cliffhangers, and then there's what happens with the third and next-to-last 'Hunger Games' installment, 'Mockingjay — Part 1.' We don't even get to the cliff. Just as the revolution against the Capitol is about to get good, here come the closing credits with a brand-new dirge from the movie's soundtrack curator, Lorde."

Morris praises Mockingjay for tense writing and exceptional acting but cannot get beyond the inexplicable split, claiming the movie "fails to take off…and risks redundancy."

The decision to split the last movie into two parts is not all that surprising given the climate in Hollywood today. A similar strategy was employed with Twilight's last entry Breaking Dawn – Parts 1 and 2. Furthermore, Peter Jackson has taken J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, a novel spanning a mere 300 pages, and wrung out three movies totaling nearly nine hours.

Hollywood is getting pretty good at leaving no stones unturned in search of the last almighty dollar.

Perhaps the Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 will pick up steam and reach the levels of its predecessors. More likely, it will fall short. Nevertheless, Lionsgate Studios have made their money off the franchise and we'll all turn out for Part 2 next fall. At least there won't be a Part 3.

[Photo courtesy of the LA Times]