Sorry for missing Sunday’s post. But after a trip to Roanoke for my girlfriend to meet the family, I was kind of distracted for the majority of the week. But luckily while I was down there, I was able to make a stop into an old favorite of mine, The Grandin Theater in Roanoke Virginia to watch the latest installment in the film version of the Suzanne Collins series, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. It was around this time last year that I took a look at the second installment in the series, Catching Fire which you can read at the link provided here. I have had nothing but praise for the film series since it has come out, often heralding it as a fantastic movie rich with plot and subtext, as well as a great adaptation from the source material. With that said, my praise continues to be showered on one of the best and most entertaining series that I have seen in quite some time.
I would like to expand upon my praise for the film as an intro to the actual review, but I feel in doing so would be an effort in redundancy on the review of Catching Fire so I will leave it here and get to the synopsis.
After the events of Catching Fire, Katniss Everdeen finds herself in the thought to be destroyed District 13. She discovers that her along with Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) and Finnick (Sam Claflin) were rescued from the Quarter Quell while Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Johanna (Jena Malone) were left in the game to be taken by the Capitol. She learns that District 12 was fire bombed after the end of the Quarter Quell and only a handful of people saved by Kale and her family managed to escape alive. Since then rebellions have cropped up around Panem and the leader of District 13, President Coin (Julianne Moore) as well as Plutarch Heavensbee (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) wish to use Katniss as the face of the rebellion.
While initially reluctant, Katniss agrees and is sent into the field where unrest and rebellion has occurred all over the districts. All the while Peeta while in control of the Capitol is being tortured and forced to work against Katniss and work as propaganda for the Capitol against the people.
Performances Continue to be Astonishingly Strong
A quick pro but one that needs to be addressed, this cast continues to amaze me with the astonishing performances put forth across the board. There is not a weak performance out of the group and they thankfully got rid of the laughably bad Patrick St. Esprit from the second movie.
Jennifer Lawrence… What more needs to be said? She is fucking astonishing in her role. Phillip Seymour Hoffman while noticeably tired in his role, is excellent in his sort of swan song of a performance. Julianne Moore is great, Donald Sutherland which we will get to in a second, and Liam Hemsworth and Scott Hutcherson were both excellent in their roles. Major points on this end.
The Use of Propaganda and Half Truths to Inspire Change (Moral Ambiguity)
Maybe it is because I am obtaining my Master’s in Political Science. But I absolutely love the political intrigue in this movie. Another reason I find The Hunger Games movies so enthralling is the fact that there is a little something for everyone. Not really concerned with the teenage love triangle, eh you don’t have to. There is so much more meat to the story that you can dig into.
I love the idea of Katniss as the reluctant protagonist who just wants to get away from all this shit that has stirred up with the hornet’s nest. I love the fact that the majority of this movie is propaganda being thrown back and forth like serves on a tennis court between Plutarch and Coin and Snow with Peeta and Katniss caught in the middle of it. It is a subtle way of showing the similarities between the two factions and that the side that Katniss finds herself on can be just as susceptible to half truths as the others.
This brings up a question of morality and moral ambiguity is ripe throughout the entire Hunger Games trilogy. Who is right? Is Coin just as bad, if not worse than Snow? How far do you push your propaganda and play with the minds of the people before you are just as bad as the people who are oppressing you? They are all amazing questions that this movie generates and leaves unanswered for you to come up with your own conclusion. Plus, if you don’t even want to think of them at all, you don’t have to. They aren’t at the forefront of thought and can be dismissed in favor of the Katniss/Peeta story. Excellent writing from Collins, the screenwriters, and all points in between. Excellence across the board.
In my first article, I wrote how I questioned the motives of President Snow and how he runs the government. They seemed vague and a little… Well wrong. After this movie, I have honestly come to the conclusion that President Snow is just an absolutely horrible leader in every since of the word. Even on a nefarious leader level, the guy just sucks. Adolf Hitler this guy is not. Please let me explain.
When it comes to squashing a rebellion like this, brute force is the worst possible solution to your problem. This guy just keeps sending soldiers again and again and each time they all end up dying as the rebellion grows and the Capitol gives people more reasons to hate them. If instead, Snow were to say ‘cancel the Hunger Games’ or start playing nice with the rebellious people just long enough for them to get back comfortably under their boot, then none of this would have had to happen. Instead, he takes a fire and proceeds to douse it in gasoline and fan the flames with a fan in the hopes of putting out said fire.
I do not at all fault Donald Sutherland for this who puts forth a phenomenal performance. IN FACT he even has one of the best scenes in the entire movie when what is essentially Seal Team Six busting into the Capitol to free Peeta and the others, he has a back and forth with Katniss. During this scene President Snow’s demeanor COMPLETELY CHANGES as the trained politician that we have seen throughout the entire series is dropped and this evil demented monster is portrayed on-screen. It is amazing acting from Sutherland as he truly portrayed without having to become a Bond villain just how much of a sociopath Snow really is.
So I find myself in a mix of praise for the Snow character. Donald Sutherland portrays him excellently, but I still sit here and say that Snow could have had a little more subtlety to him in his actions throughout the series. Either way I consider both a pro and a con of the series.
The Problems with Two Part Stories
I do have problems with the two-part finales. All the big movies are doing them these days when before Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows the only movie that I personally knew that did this was Kill Bill. Divergent plans to do this,
Twilight did this, The Hobbit, and now Mockingjay. As far as culprits of this goes, Mockingjay falls into the more positive side. The pacing does not suffer too much and there is a lot of meat that goes into the third installment that could warrant splitting it into two parts.
However, even though it is warrented to some extent, I still do not applaud the movie for doing this as it is a cheap way to generate four movies from a three movie series and a way to rake in some more money from our wallets. A passable offense yes, but a bad trend in the movie industry.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 continues to absolutely amaze me. The series remains one of the best stories I have seen in quite a while and is ripe with excellent stories and questions of morality. All the actors and actresses deserve to be commended for their stellar roles and overall the film just looks great and is a delightful watch. We can debate the idea of breaking up the final installment into two movies for another time or the motives of President Snow. But for now, I will leave it here.
Final Score 4/5
Thank you for reading and as always if you enjoyed this review then please like and subscribe for more from me. So I have been given a couple of movies by someone who has seen and enjoys my site; Disaster LA and Horrible Bosses. I feel it is my duty to give both of these a go so look for Disaster LA tomorrow as well as my collection of mini reviews to finish out the December 2014 movies as well as a handful of other new releases.