Would you look at that. I’m all up to date on them Hunger Games films what the teens like to watch and stuff. Maybe I’ll even go see part 2 in the cinema. It’s been a bit of a rocky ride. I really liked the first film, despite it’s lack of originality, but man I wasn’t keen on Catching Fire. The film… not the act of catching fire itself. I felt like the second film was entirely pointless as nothing really happens. It was essentially another Hunger games event with people saying Katniss has inspired rebellion without showing rebellion or even her developing to a point where she grows into her role as a figurehead for the movement. So, as I found the previous films to be diametrically opposed in quality, what did I think of the first half of Mockingjay? Click my link below to read my words about it.
Mockingjay kicks off a little time after the end of Catching Fire, where Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) was pulled out from the Hunger Games event to be the leader of a new rebellion after blowing a hole in roof of the combat area’s dome in dramatic fashion. In the process a few other competitors were left behind, including Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). Katniss is struggling to deal with the expectation to be a symbol for a rebellion and, meanwhile, Peeta is appearing to be very pro Capitol in public broadcasts. Over the course of the film Katniss learns to accept her role of poster-girl for the revolution and plans are made to storm the capitol with the rising support of the other districts that have been held under even more oppression in recent months.
The story arc here is so much better suited for a sequel to the first film than Catching Fire was. The entire film is about Katniss taking her position, getting angrier at the Capitol and President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and inspiring the nation. This is what Catching Fire should have been. There was no need for them to have another Hunger Games competition. We’d seen that and fully grasped how evil the Capitol was and that it was possible for Katniss to beat them at their own game. There’s a scene in Mockingjay Part 1 where characters are discussing how to present Katniss to the districts. Haymitch (Woodey Harrelson) points out that she’s most effective at inspiring the people when she’s being honestly effected by and acting against the capitol’s evil. Such as when she gave herself up as tribute in place of her sister Primrose (Willow Shields). All the different instances they site are from the first film barring maybe one. Katniss had already done her inspirational legwork there. The fact Mockingjay Part 1 just gets right into the natural development of her character is so much more welcome.
Some of the thematic elements of oppression, state control and control of the media come back from the first film again in a much stronger way than they did in the second entry. Whilst it is odd that Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is so set on using typical, quite Capitol-like, propaganda to promote Katniss, the irony of such an action being lost on him it seems, the themes that come from it all work very well within the film’s story. There’s more of the love triangle thing between Katniss, Peeta and Gale (Liam Hemsworth). It’s still a little silly and feels like it’s there because of course the girl has to be in love with someone. So whilst there’s a few missteps the film itself manages to confront the themes of the series and progresses them in a logical manner.
What helps the film immensely is that it isn’t just another Hunger Games competition. It feels fresher and more like an actual continuation of a story. The vast majority of the film is set in District 13, which is independent of the rest of the districts and even has its own president in the form of Alma (Julianne Moore). The setting can be a little dull, as it’s almost entirely underground complexes of gray walls and gray floors with everyone wearing gray uniforms, but at least it’s different. Katniss and a TV recording crew for the district head out to districts that have been bombarded by the Capitol for any form of resistance to film more natural propaganda videos. I say natural… they pretty much always end up with Katniss getting super angry and delivering a rousing speech such as her sort of famous “if we burn, you burn” speech.
Oddly that speech has entered the public lexicon and could be seen scrawled on the St Louis Arch after the murder of Micheal Brown last year. I say oddly only because it’s a little strange that of all pieces of modern art of inspire actual real life rebellion, I wouldn’t have suspected it to be The Hunger Games. That’s not the only instance of the film influencing protesters too. Katniss’ three finger salute has been seen used by protesters in multiple incidences in various Asian countries recently. It’s weird what can inspire people and if a film, even a blockbuster style one such as this, can inspire a fight against oppression and full on evil in the real world then more power to it. The influence of media on the general populace is one of the main themes of The Hunger Games films so the fact it has influenced people in the real world is pretty cool.
I remember when this came out last year seeing people complain about a lack of action. I find this kinda sad. It shows that people have a lack of interest in story and just want to see explosions. At least to me it does. The film does have a lot less action beats than either of the previous films, but, as I mentioned, the film also feels a lot different from them in terms of its setting and tone. Personally I liked the fewer action beats and I appreciated how much shorter and to the point they were. I’m probably gonna sound like an old fart but Jesus Christ am I tired of 40 minute long action scenes capping every film off. Having watched the trailer for Mockingjay Part 2 recently I’ve got the feeling I may have to deal with that nonsense again soon. Like, you can have huge, long action scenes but the action has to be the core of the film. It has to be a representation of what the film is about. Violence isn’t the only thing the Hunger Games films are about.
So yeah, I quite liked Mockingjay Part 1. I’ve got a feeling that’s not the general consensus, but who wants to think the same as everyone else? At first the overly misery filled tone felt a little unearned but there was a nice gradual justification for that tone. The film gradually builds from that into something that could almost be considered quite exciting and tense as District 13 is attacked, as rebellions are launched and as Gale takes a team into the Capitol to rescue Peeta and the other competitors. The pace is fairly slow but it’s always moving forward, barring a scene midway through where we visit District 12 for the second time to have a similar point hammered into us. Overall I quite prefer this film to Catching Fire by quite a margin. It isn’t as balanced and conclusive with its narrative as The Hunger Games was but the film does end at what could be considered a logical stopping point for part 2. That said, I would have rather had some of the fat be trimmed and just made Mockingjay be one long film with a slow first half leading into a faster paced second. Long films do work these days so it’s odd that they didn’t go that route. Well, except for the fact that they get 2 tickets sold for 1 film this way. Anyway, Part 2 isn’t too far off. Maybe I’ll review it on its cinema release. Mockingjay part 1 did get me suitably invested after all.