Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I Movie Review

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I has an unwieldy title thanks to the decision long ago to divide the third book in Suzanne Collins’ trilogy into two movies. Let’s face it, this is a business decision much more than an artistic choice. It’s a means o doubling revenue for a single story. I feel no discussion of this series can be complete without considering that decision.

At this point in Katniss Everdeen’s (Jennifer Lawrence) saga in the oppressive world of Panem, the titular sporting event is over and done. Now it’s time for revolution. The games master Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is now the leader of a revolutionary splinter group aligned with the remaining citizens of District 13 (the district formerly believed obliterated following a pre-saga uprising). Julianne Moore plays President Alma Coin of the small underground community there. Heavensbee serves a role not unlike the one he served for President Snow (Donald Sutherland). He’s basically the propaganda minster, whose job is to find way to use Katniss to drum up revolutionary support throughout Panem to rise up against the Capital.

You can see the seeds of great irony being sown, but I fear it’s not intentional and that eh conclusion will not resemble anything remotely clever, interesting, cynical, or reflective of the fact that in real life revolutionaries very often overthrow oppressive governments only to instill one of their own. If there’s not some wink at that possibility by the end of Part II, I’ll be supremely disappointed in the effort they seem to have put into drawing parallels between Snow and Coin, both master manipulators.

There are scenes of Heavensbee working to best employ Katniss as a symbol of insurrection with full use of filmmakers and editors, decisions on timing of release that are obviously reminiscent of the things we saw in the first two movies from the Captial side of things. And Snow and the TV host Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) continue their own propaganda war, using Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) under some kind of physical or mental duress as he begs the rebels to end the war.

It’s hard to pass judgment on this chapter until the second film is released, except to say that it looks like Lawrence is sleepwalking through her performance this time. She brought it full throttle in the first two, but it’s like she’s on auto-pilot now. And that’s sort of how the whole movie felt. It’s just hitting marks and action beats in a predictable way. I like the story of sheer survival and sacrifice in the first film, but in expanding to epic proportions, it’s beginning to lose some perspective.

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