The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (Lionsgate)
Directed by Francis Lawrence
The first two Hunger Games movies featured the spectacle of The Hunger Games themselves, front and center; The crazy contest where kids brutally kill each other instead of districts rising up and rebelling against an oppressive regime. In the first two movies the government is the obvious enemy. Economic inequality is the prevalent problem in this futuristic world. But as I suspected (because it takes money to make movies), this third film introduces a new enemy. And it looks as grey and cold as communism or socialism in the American propaganda films of the 50s and 60s. It seems we have to have this forced balance in our movies these days, right? Well, whatever. I still liked Mockingjay – Part 1 in spite of this ham-fisted attempt to make the rebellion less appealing.
I love The Hunger Games movies because the hero is not a soldier but a symbol. I love these movies because Katniss Everdeen is not just a reluctant hero of the rebellion but a young woman who only wants to save the people she cares about. Her compassion is grand but unless you fall into her massive scope of caring, she doesn’t give a shit about you. I love these movies because this dystopian surreal future is not far from our disgustingly for real present. And… And I just love these fucking movies.
In Mockingjay – Part 1, Katniss is introduced to the rebels of District 13. Most of this movie takes place underground. It has an entirely different feel from the first two films. The capital district was bright and colorful and full of technology and ostentatiously beautiful costumes and soulless people. While the outer districts were agricultural or industrial work farms that were more oppressive than prosperous and more like prisons. But in district 13, where the rebels hide, there is absolutely no color, no beauty, no light. And as one character points out, the rules are even more oppressive than in the capital. What price freedom, the movie asks? Well, I’m guessing the rebels just don’t know how to party.
Once again the message from the capital is the same this time around, that any attempt at revolution or rebellion will be met with brutal violence and destruction. To those in power the choice is clear; leave things as they are or everybody dies. Everyone. So yeah, they’re still evil bloodsucking monsters. But in Mockingjay – Part 1, the rebels use basically the same tactics as the establishment. The same propaganda and manipulation. The same threat of mutual destruction. And the same unflinchingly self-important almost egomaniacal leadership. But from their side, it’s couched in community and freedom and justice. Oscar winner, Julianne Moore plays the rebel President Coin with a nearly menacing sense of fairness and an eerily emotionless sense of compassion.
But I must admit that Mockingjay – Part 1 is my favorite of The Hunger Games movies so far. The third movie based on Suzanne Collins Hunger Games trilogy is amazing even though it’s been split in half. And I’m aware this is the new thing in trilogies and adapted film series, with Harry Potter splitting the seventh book, and The Hobbit made into three movies and so on. So I don’t fault it for the split. But my only problem with the “Part 1” of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is that it doesn’t have an ending. I wish that when they did this thing, this splitting of the book thing, that they found a way to give the first movie a hard ending. An actual end. A full stop. Completing a story then rolling the credits. There is no need for a cliff hanger. We’re all going to see the second part. Maybe they should take a B story, that spans the entire book, and squeeze it all into the first part. I just want to feel like I got a complete story for the admission price.
And yet I liked The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 a whole lot and yes, I still fear and believe they’ll find a way to make the rebellion’s upsetting of the status quo into a horribly bad decision. Like the notion that some people are better off as slaves. Extreme inequality and oppression has to be defeated. But the trend in movies about rebellion has been to sour their victories or to even crush them completely. When first seen, this was from trying to break into the Chinese market. They don’t allow movies with themes of rebellion to have happy endings. And admittedly it is a major movie market. And unsurprisingly, this can ruin a really good film. But also because it takes so much money to make a big budget blockbuster (it’s in the name). So at the heart of the financing sits people who are a part of this problem. Who benefit from inequality. And now we see that after a modern movie kills hundreds of less economically viable characters, it pauses to reflect at the killing of one wealthy individual no matter how deserving or unconscionably evil (Except for in the cartoonishly silly Kingsman. I laughed so hard through that entire sequence). A movie like Star Wars, today, would be injected with so much forced balance it would be unrecognizable. You can see this in the difference between the original trilogy and the later released prequel monstrosities, where the rebels are crushed and the bad guys win. But it appears I’ve gotten off track.
Mockingjay – Part 1 is my favorite Hunger Games movie so far because it is: The most revealing; we get to know Katniss a lot better and learn that she is far from perfect, The most emotionally mature; after two trips to the games, these are no longer children but veterans with severe PTSD, And the most heartbreakingly and politically grey. For while I see no reason the rebellion couldn’t have splashed a little color around the place, I still loved every single minute of the film and cannot wait for Part 2.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is the fantastic first-half of the conclusion to what has turned out to be a politically powerful science-fiction action-adventure film trilogy. And I love it so.