I haven’t read the Hunger Games books and missed the first movie, but I dipped my toes into Suzanne Collins’s franchise when I saw Catching Fire. I liked it well enough to want to see Mockingjay, Part 1. Now I’m a fan, eager to see Part 2 and making plans to read the books.
My new-found excitement for Katniss and friends comes with the full knowledge that a number of writers consider the books to be poorly written. If that’s true, the movies, I’d say, are different. I think Mockingjay, Part 1 does a good job expanding the Hunger Game story.
The focus on beating out competitors in a life and death struggle shifted at the end of Catching Fire to resistance to the corrupt government that demanded the games and the leader who embodied the system. Mockingjay, Part 1 advances the story along these lines.
Katniss Everdeen brought down the Hunger Games and ignited resistance, but the government has superior weapons and technology; President Snow is committed to crushing the opposition once for all; and Peeta, the “victor” Katniss has fallen in love with, is a pawn in government hands, urging surrender and cooperation.
In the face of such hopelessness and pressure, the resistance leaders look to Katniss to rally people throughout the country to their cause. Without intending to, she has become the face of opposition to the corrupt government. If she urges people to fight, though it cost them their lives, they will fight.
From the beginning, however, Katniss got involved in the Games and the resulting events simply because she wanted to protect those she loves. But as her experiences bring her into contact with more and more people, and as she sees how they suffer under the tyrannical treatment of the corrupt leaders, she takes up the mantle as the Mockingjay—the symbol of resistance.
By far the greatest strength of the movie is the character of Katniss. She has inner strength but not a hero complex. She isn’t interested in exerting power over people. Rather she wants to protect those she loves, starting with her sister, her mother, the boy she loves, and her friends. But her circle is ever-expanding, which influences what she decides to do.
In short, Katniss is likeable and well-motivated. And now she has a greater purpose, though her desire to save Peeta still takes precedence over much else.
There are other characters to love as well—Katniss’s childhood friend Gale and her sister Prim for example. But clearly Katniss is the driving force in the story.
The movie also gives a person a lot to think about. One theme relates to mass market media. As the Games were televised and each competitor required to cater to the audience in order to gain necessary support, the Resistance now requires the same kind of audience manipulation. Hence, delivering lines with believable feeling is as important, if not more so, than truth.
The emphasis is on perception. When Peeta makes his appearance on the Capital-controlled television, urging Katniss and the other revolutionaries to put down their arms because they’re being manipulated to oppose President Snow, it’s clear there’s a certain level of truth to what he says. So whose version of the truth is the right one?
The question seems frighteningly relevant in light of the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri.
My main complaint about Mockingjay, Part 1 is the stylistic device used to open the movie. Opting for an in medias res approach, the director/screenplay writer show Katniss in a situation that clearly has her traumatized, but the audience has no way of knowing where she is, why she’s upset, who is calling her, and why she wants to be alone—in other words, in confusion.
This technique is soon followed by a jump cut that transports Katniss from the rubble of District 12 to the bunkers of District 13 without a word of explanation or preparation that this move is about to happen. And we’re still not done.
This device leads to another disorienting one in which Peeta is with Katniss . . . except he isn’t. As it turns out, rather than being a second jump cut, which would seem to be the most logical explanation, this event turns out to be a dream.
With these three “artsy” devices following one after the other, I experienced disorientation and outright confusion in the beginning of the movie, but once it settled down to a more approachable format, the story took over and moved along at a crisp pace.
After having read a review or two, I wonder now if this disorientation and confusion wasn’t intentional—a device to set up a key element in Part 2. But I’ll need to wait to make that assessment. As it stands, I found the opening of Mockingjay, Part 1 to be annoying and confusing.
There were points when I thought the rebels were making a mistake to keep Katniss hiding away in the bunker instead of out leading forays against the Capital. I’ve since learned that some reviewers see this as a fault of the story, not the mistake of the resistance leaders. Either way, Katniss was rendered somewhat passive—not something a writer wants to do when the story hangs so clearly on the reader/audience response to the protagonist.
I thoroughly enjoyed Mockingjay, Part 1 as a thought-provoking piece of dystopian fiction.
I don’t see any elements I’d say parallel Christian thought. Katniss wants to fight those who are hurting the people she loves. She wants to help those who are fighting their common enemy. She has no greater aim, no desire for personal power, but also no grandiose desire to “fix” society. She simply wants to rescue those she loves and stop those she hates. She’s not a complicated person, at least in this installment of the Hunger Games franchise.
The movie is certainly provocative, particularly when it comes to how mass media massages the truth to dramatize what those behind the lenses want people to believe. If nothing else, viewers of this movie should look a little more skeptically at their evening news from now on—and I have to believe that’s a good thing.