Friday, November 21, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 1 [2014]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-II)  ChicagoTribune (3 Stars) (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (M. Zoller Seitz) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review  

The Hunger Games Mockingjay -- Part 1 [2014] (directed by Francis Lawrence, screenplay by Peter Craig and Danny Strong based on the novel by Suzanne Collins [IMDb]) is the third cinematic installment of Collins' Hunger Games [wikip] [Amzn] trilogy.  The first two installments The Hunger Games [2012], and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire [2013] were reviewed on this blog earlier.  As with the previous cinematic adaptations of the Harry Potter and Twilight book series, the film-makers here have decided to split the final book in the series into two parts, making the cinematic adaptation of Collins' original trilogy comprise ... four films. 

Yes, one's tempted to "roll one's eyes" and inevitably images of money / Hollywood enter one's mind ... But truth be told, as I wrote in my review of the first of the recent Hobbit movies (all based on and reasonably faithfully following Tolkien's relatively tiny 100 page book that Hollywood's stretched-out into a series of three two-hour-plus movies) if one finds the worlds created in these stories to be compelling, then one probably won't mind spending a little more time in them as a result of an extra film (or two...).

And so it is then with the world, or the post-Apocalyptic North America called "Panem" of the Hunger Games.   By this third installment, one is pretty much "accustomed" to the place and to the conflict playing out  (Panem being dominated by a radically imperialistic/exploitative central Capitol extracting resources from and holding sway over thirteen outlying/subordinate Districts).

To the story ...

This third installment begins with the story's teenage heroine Katniss Everdeen (played with ever increasing familiarity and ease by Jennifer Lawrence) arriving a bunker carved deep into a mountain somewhere in previously thought to be disastrously "unlucky" District 13.  (At the end of the second installment, she was "rescued" / "taken away" by a seemingly ad hoc group of rebels seeking to finally organize a (new) Rebellion against the oppressive power of Panem's central Capital).   Previously, even Katniss believed that District 13 had been obliterated by the reigning Capitol's forces at the end of the last Rebellion against it.  Indeed, the annual "The Hunger Games" in which Katniss participated (twice) were organized by "The Capitol" each year to "celebrate" that "final victory" of the Central "Capitol" over its previously rebellious Provinces.

So it was indeed something of a shock for Katniss, who certainly had no love for the Capitol, to arrive at said bunker in District 13 and to discover that not only was it _not_ dead, but instead was a "beehive of life/activity." Yes, perhaps it was "burrowed deep underground" but it was ready now, indeed itching now, to start a new fight against the Capitol's forces to gain its dignity and independence.

And indeed (almost) everybody seemed to believe that Katniss (!) as a result of her defiance at those two Hunger Games would be the perfect "Poster Child" ("Face") for the New Rebellion.  But was she?  And if so, HOW, would she be(come) "The Face" of the New Rebellion of the Districts against the Capitol? 

These questions become the fodder for this third installment of the story.  And IMHO, this installment becomes the most interesting (and most current) of the installments to the story thus far.  I believe this because the central question being asked is "What makes for a Rebellion?" or even more simply "What makes for a Campaign of any sort?"     

District 13's no-nonsense President Alma Coin (played by Julianne Moore) has been organizing her residents in a very Spartan-like martial manner, waiting for a moment when they could finally "leave the hive" to strike at the Capitol.  She honestly doesn't understand the non-District 13's rebel commanders, including various defectors from the Capitol's, fascination with Katniss.  How can a "pretty" or even pretty DETERMINED "face" CARRY a Revolution??  She seems to ask. 

But the previously Capitol-spin-guru now defector-to-the-Rebel-side Plutarch Heavensbee (played by Phillip Seymour Hofmann) along with a cadre of idealistic "film school people" (again defectors from The Capitol) seems convinced that a Cause (ANY CAUSE) NEEDS a "Face" indeed a multipronged "media campaign" complete with slogans, and symbols, and songs, and finally even short-pithy-30 second "propaganda-info-mercials." 

Like the no-nonsense, healthy-and-fit President Coin of District 13, the down-to-earth (and often drunk...) Haymitch Abernathy (played again, wonderfully, by Woody Harrelson) of Katniss' own (blue-collar / Appalachia-like) District 8 is unconvinced by the Capitol-defectors' insistence on "media glitz," counseling instead that "What makes Catniss, Catniss is her AUTHENTICITY."  Yes, he believes that Catniss could "RALLY the Revolution" but only because she is "one of the people" / "one of the oppressed."  Put too much make-up on her, make her "talking points" too stilted ... and SHE'D LOSE _THE PEOPLE_, he tells the well-meaning, mic and camera toting, makeup carrying, Capitol-defector "media" people.

Add to that a cyber/technology wiz or two, personified here by another defector from the Capitol, named Beetee (played by Jeffrey Wright)... and this third installment of The Hunger Games series BECOMES A GREAT "POLY-SCI" DISCUSSION PIECE for high schoolers and college kids: How would you organize a campaign for something that you would believe in?

In truth, perhaps there are TOO MANY key players in the story who come "from the Capitol" ("from the Elite") to my liking.  But this installment certainly does offer much to think about as one tries to figure out how one would plan a rebellion against a force as oppressive (and as initially dominant) as the Capitol in the Hunger Game series.

So then, having set-up the story ... much ensues ... ;-) ... and I now eagerly await the fourth and final installment!   Good job folks, good job!

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