Whoever co-opted a young Jennifer Lawrence into doing both The Hunger Games and X-Men film series is a genius. In the time since she commenced filming her star has exploded, and so the success of the remaining Hunger Games is near guaranteed. And it’s obvious, because yet again the final in the series has been split into two films – cash grab, anyone?
Guest Writer Stevie O’C has prepared this review of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 exclusively for theaussieword.com.
The splitting of the film is the most frustrating part of the film – its incompleteness is bothersome. While it does manage an arc within its runtime, it is unsatisfying to know there’s more to come before the loop is finally closed.
Lawrence is back as Katniss Everdeen, having been rescued from the Quarter Quell, which saw her and Peeta thrown back into the Games arena. She wakes to find herself in District 13, her own District 12 all but wiped out following an attack by the Capitol. Others have suffered the same fate, with the activities of the remaining districts increasingly curtailed from afar by the dictatorship.
District 13’s President Coin (Julianne Moore) wants Katniss to be the beacon to unite the districts against the Capitol in the impending civil war. Initially reluctant, Katniss eventually concedes, taking on the role with the help of Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), and Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth).
This third entry in the series is distinctly bleak in its design compared with its predecessors. The colour and grandeur of the Capitol is gone, replaced by grey jumpsuits, concrete bunkers and mounds of ash. It’s within the barren setting that the actors have the space to shine.
Unsurprisingly, Lawrence knocks it out of the park, particularly in the propaganda scenes. Her Katniss is strong but angry, which can be a fine line to walk at times. It’s important to remember that she’s not an adult, but she’s expected to deal with adult concepts. She’s seriously damaged by what she’s seen and experienced. Katniss needs to be many things, all of the time and Lawrence is well able to bring it together.
By comparison, the rest of the characters are far more subtle, but nonetheless successful. Seymour Hoffman’s performance in Catching Fire was criticised by some as being phoned in, however here it becomes clear why Plutarch is the way he is. He knows what needs to be done to sell the war and the functionality of the propaganda machine, but he needs to make it seem others are making the decisions. All along he sews the seeds, does not push the issues and does not celebrate his victories, but gets his way. It’s his subtle performance that makes him the most powerful person in the room.
Also noteworthy is Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark. His character has been through unknown and unseen atrocities to be wheeled out in front of the whole of Panem as the Capitol’s propaganda tool. He is broken and suffering from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder, this much is obvious in Hutcherson’s portrayal. His scenes are commanding and devastating – a performance much improved from that of the previous film.
The commentary Mockingjay brings on a present day context is an interesting one. The scenes of Katniss walking through her devastated District 12 could be any warzone; the Capitol’s limiting exposure about what’s really going on is no different to the 30 second grabs we see on the evening news; and Plutarch’s comments about the need for war as a story and President Coin’s final speech as relevant today as in the time of Churchill’s grand oration.
Even if you don’t think this much about it, Mockingjay is well worth watching, however incomplete it may be.