by Coop Cooper
Directly following the events in “Catching Fire”, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) awakens alone in an underground infirmary in District 13 after barely surviving the last Hunger Games event. Now under the protection of the resistance, Katniss is asked by resistance leader President Coin (Julianne Moore) to become the ‘Mockingjay’, the symbol of the revolution. Enraged that the resistance did not fulfill its promise to rescue her partner, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Katniss refuses until she realizes she is in the position to make demands.
With a new deal to save Peeta, who has been forced to become a propaganda tool of the Capitol, Katniss reluctantly agrees to star in resistance propaganda videos, but the results comes across as insincere. To remedy this, Katniss agrees to put on a military uniform and go out into the war zones of other districts to be filmed meeting with the wounded. This gamble initially pays off, but quickly puts Katniss’s life in danger. As President Snow (Donald Sutherland) escalates the violence against the resistance, Katniss’s childhood friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) volunteers for a dangerous mission to save Peeta and the rest of the captives in the Capitol.
While adapting the last book into two movies was certainly a profit-based choice, it wasn’t necessarily a wise narrative choice. “Part 1” ends at an awkward and anti-climactic plot point as Katniss sits on the sideline and has no choice but to react to what is happening out of her reach. This will probably be a moot complaint when “Part 2” comes out and the two films can be seen back-to-back, but we have to wait a year to resolve an emotional (and not very action-packed) cliffhanger that probably won’t be resolved until the very end of the next film.
Also troubling is the portrayal of the ‘Resistance’ in the film which seemed reminiscent of the Soviet communist soldiers under siege in World War II Stalingrad. Much like sniper Vasili Zaytsev became the rallying inspiration for the Russians to drive back the Nazis, Katniss becomes a similar figure manipulated and used for the greater good, yet turning her loved ones into targets for pain and suffering. The resistance’s treatment of her came across as benevolent on the surface but its agenda seemed only a shade warmer than the ice cold and manipulative regime of President Snow.
Likewise, the film glossed over some of actions of the resistance which could be construed as suicide bombings and terrorism. Films like “The Matrix” and “V for Vendetta” have made me increasingly uncomfortable over the years as they failed to adequately address the issue of collateral damage and innocent death caused by the ‘heroes’. In one disturbing scene in “Mockingjay”, hundreds of citizens rush past stormtroopers and blow up a dam with explosives. What the film sidestepped was that these hundreds of citizens most certainly drowned from the rushing water and likely killed hundreds of innocent District 1 workers inside the dam. There was no mention of the sacrifice in the resistance, just cheers from Resistance HQ that they temporarily knocked out the Capitol’s power.
Remember the Steven Seagal film “On Deadly Ground” where in the end you’re supposed to cheer him on as he destroys a corrupt oil corporation that’s ruining the environment? Did you notice he achieved this by gunning down or stabbing to death EVERY SINGLE EMPLOYEE of the oil refinery, including the lowly laborers, then gives a sanctimonious speech about protecting the Alaskan tundra? The dam scene in “Mockingjay” is similarly icky.
Other than these gripes and a few worthless propaganda filmmaker characters (lead by “Game of Throne’s” Natalie Dormer) who added nothing substantial to the story, “Mockingjay” has the potential to develop into a worthy conclusion for this beloved series. The pacing was uneven but I didn’t have any issues with the acting or the direction the story went in. There were many compelling and emotional moments in the story and a few shocking/exciting action scenes. Fans of the book should feel satisfied.
I won’t feel like I can give “Mockingjay” a proper review until I see “Part 2” as I felt I only saw half of a movie, so I’ll let you know in exactly one year…
P. S. What was up with Julianne Moore’s eyes in the film? The gold-colored contacts she wore were so distracting and menacing, I barely listened to a word she said.
Rating: 3 and 1/2 out of 5