“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1,” Reviewed: Panem Penultimata.

Liam Hemsworth and Jennifer Lawrence in "Mockingjay, Part 1." (Lionsgate)

Liam Hemsworth and Jennifer Lawrence in “Mockingjay, Part 1.” (Lionsgate)

Here are a couple of Thanksgiving tips: Spatchcock your bird – it’ll cook faster and more evenly, freeing up precious oven time for all those delicious side dishes. Also, don’t go see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 (rated PG-13). Or at least, put it off until this time next year, when you can watch it consecutively with Part 2. As with making home-cooked gravy, your patience will be rewarded.

When The Hunger Games arrived on the big screen in 2012, it represented the first modern example of how to make a great teen-dystopian film – and that object lesson couldn’t have arrived at a better time, because in its wake we’ve seen a steady stream of would-be successors (Divergent, The Giver, The Maze Runner, etc.) whose makers seem eager to show us how hard it really is to make one of these films right. The first Hunger was sleek in its storytelling; it understood how to incorporate character into action sequences, and the power of a quiet moment to punctuate loud ones.

Two films later, all I can say about the series is that it knows how to make money. Last year’s sequel Catching Fire was fine, in a let’s-keep-things-moving sort of way, but so far Mockingjay is a leaden bore – and most of the problem is owed to that nasty little “Part 1” added to the title. In a blatant cash grab (one that leverages the precedent set by the Twilight and Harry Potter franchises), producers have opted to bifurcate the final installment in Suzanne Collins’ trilogy – so that a book just one page longer than Catching Fire must take up two films instead of one. It’ll sell more tickets, but at the expense of the lean, supple filmmaking that has distinguished the series to date.

Ironically, that kind of behind-the-scenes audience manipulation is the exact plot of the movie itself. After the gladiatorial Hunger Games of the first two films have exploded into sociopolitical chaos, the futuristic society of Panem is now teetering on the brink of rebellion, with a band of insurgents led by President Coin (Julianne Moore) calculating the best way to inspire the masses to revolt against the decadent corrupt Capital and its leader, President Snow (Donald Sutherland). The rebels have chosen teen hero Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) as their telegenic face, and media whiz Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman, in his final performance) is tasked with creating a series of Katniss-centric propaganda films that will stir the pot of revolution.

The bulk of the film, then, is given over to show-prep: arranging set pieces and planning strategy for a catharsis that’s still one film away. There’s a lot of filler here – lingering shots of flying ships slowly taking off and landing, languorous pans across landscapes of rubble, and way too much time spent on a cat belonging to Katniss’ kid sister – that could have been cut back to include whatever’s going to happen in Part 2. An overlong three-hour movie that ended the saga in one fell swoop would have been preferable to this meandering, melodramatic slog.

Diehard fans of the franchise may enjoy having the tension drawn out, but I suspect most audiences will see this for what it is – stalling, and stretching the narrative past its ability to retain its elasticity. If you’re really into the experience of watching Katniss & Krew overthrow the evil Capital (not a spoiler, just a guess), waiting until next year to watch Parts 1 and 2 of Mockingjay will probably be much more rewarding. In the meantime, you can re-channel your energies into making that perfect gravy.