Friday, November 21, 2014

Movie Review: "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1"

Continuing the trend of Harry Potter and Twilight, the third and final Hunger Games book, Mockingjay, has been split into two movies because it's, "So much story to be told in only one movie."  Yeah, I'll let the filmmakers live with that explanation as long as they make Mockingjay - Part 2 as good as they have Part 1.

Picking up literally right where Catching Fire left off, Mockingjay - Part 1 very quickly dispenses any pleasantries and jumps right back into Katniss's struggles and psyche, with Jennifer Lawrence once more proving that Katniss may just be her role of a lifetime.  Katniss is now in the long thought destroyed, District 13, and is being used by their President as a figure to rally all of the other districts to rebellion against the Capitol.  With war almost all but a certainty, Katniss still finds herself unwillingly thrust in this larger than life game for not only her life, but the lives of all those she cares for.

This is a film about war, not only the costs and horrors of war, but also the way that media and propaganda are used in war.  Watching Katniss being directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman's Plutarch Heavensbee for a propaganda video they are making -- which is ridiculously stupid, yet authentic in the way our own media represents figureheads -- is one of the few genuinely funny scenes in what is a very tense two hour movie.  As it is, what keeps you trucking through some of the horrors that these characters go through is the humanity of the characters and their little quirks that often lend themselves to a little laugh here or there to alleviate the tension happening all around them, because as I've already mentioned, this is a war film.

Mockingjay - Part 1 harbors shades of some of the great war films of the past few decades, with one scene in particular that reminded me of Zero Dark Thirty.  These scenes, while being played out in a science fiction world, feel startlingly real because of the similarities that are easily seen between the world of Panem and our modern day world with all of our wars and injustices.  However, this isn't an anti-war film, nor is it pro-war, it just shows the harsh realities of the world.

Sometimes we have to fight for the things that we cannot afford to lose.  While peace is a great ideal, as long as there are those who are causing unrest and want to kill all who do not bow to their whims, wars will be fought.  It was that idea that I thought was the most poignant thing about Suzanne Collins' book when I read it, and that is an idea that director Francis Lawrence and his screenwriting team of Peter Craig and Danny Strong have managed to keep intact for the film.  If The Hunger Games crew can continue to build off of the ideas presented here and deliver a moving finale next November, we may be looking at something genuinely special with Part 2.  As for now, Part 1 is definitely worth the time of any fan of these books, films, or good science fiction stories in general.

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