You (like me, like everyone) probably spend too much time looking at monitors. How would you feel then when I recommend you watch a movie which is basically about a young woman looking at screens and other people watching that young woman on screens? But the fact that Mockingjay, Part 1, the third installment of The Hunger Games, is actually a successful action/adventure despite being as described is a testament to the fact that this is one unique series of films that stands above the normal teen fair.
Plot Synopsis: Girl Leads Rebellion by Frowning at a Camera
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) arises bruised from the Quarter Quell, stashed in a rebel base in District 13, outside the controlled zones of the Capitol. She learns of the destruction of her home District 12, though her loved ones, Mom (Paula Malcomson), sister Prim (Willow Shields) and secret boyfie Gale (Liam Hemsworth) have been saved and are with her in a humongous bomb shelter. The leadership (Julianne Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman) of District 13 must convince Katniss to rise above her own concerns so that she may lead the people in rebellion through a media campaign designed to motivate the people of Panem to rise up against President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Katniss will help with one condition; they must save Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and the other victors still left behind enemy lines. Then a war of propaganda starts as our young characters are manipulated by their respective governments to inspire the masses behind their own causes.
There are three things that I really love about The Hunger Games
1. The Games from which the film series gets its name are genuinely exciting action set pieces. We thrill at the cartoon violence. We feel Katniss’ many, many pains. We scream with Peeta during his damsel-in-distress routines. This is good, gory fun down in a clever referential style that calls to mind many of our favourite action films. So we cheer!
2. Katniss is our girl. Jennifer Laurence’s puts all her Oscar-winning power into a thoroughly believable teen Amazon who can kick butt mightily while juggling bizarre love triangles. The best action hero in many decades, Katniss is one woman we want all our little girls and admire, a new feminist icon.
3. This is a clever, funny parody, saying something important about the global culture in which we live. We should rightfully feel shame for the morally dubious reality shows where we encourage people to exchange their personal dignity for fifteen minutes of fame while we text and tweet our support and/or derision. Woe are we for pushing our young people into growing up before their time as we damage them in the process. The modern person is really just an image broadcast on Facebook profiles, and we’ve confused our deeper emotions and shallow urges.
It’s a Set-up
Mockingjay, Part 1, much like Deathly Hollows: Part 1, is less a movie, and more of a set up for the finale. You are not going to leave this film feeling satisfied. You are going to leave feeling hungry for more. All the big bangs are in the next film; this movie instead goes deeper into the psyche of Katniss.
J-Law’s Star Power
Jennifer Lawrence shows you she can put on a Bella Swan-level sulk as she pouts her way as the face of a rebellion. As for her love life, the situation with her boys Peeta and Gale both clarifies and becomes murkier. Lawrence knows how to turn on the tears for her fans with some genuinely moving scenes of war and suffering, though interspersed by over-the-top, corny sentiment (SPOILER ALERT: Save the cat, What!?).
Boo Mass Media
The lovely cynicism about mass media from the earlier film shifts its focus from reality television to modern war coverage. Provocatively familiar images ripped out of the last century’s conflicts bombard the viewer. The movies’ have-its-cake-and-eat-it-too attitude also continues; this is both an antiwar film and and a film that revels in the violence of war. Katniss cries for victims and then takes an explosive arrow to kill scores of people. This jumping between two, opposing stances might make one feel a little queasy, but this uneasiness is effectively thought provoking. Thought bubbles about the state of modern life and the validity of war keep popping up as you digest this film post-viewing.
Mockingjay-Part 1 is The Hunger Games without the games, leaving you just with the hunger. The empty stomach experience will have you clamoring for more in the angry, desperate way of starvation. Mockingjay- Part 2, you better deliver something that will fill my belly!
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1 will be showing in most cinemas in Cebu this weekend (21-23 November).