The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I

There’s an irony in me seeing this film today, as I am still reading a book called The Revolution Was Televised by Alan Sepinwall.

As The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I opens we learn that the physical hunger games are no more. The Capitol is still smarting that the folk hero and people’s choice, Katniss Everdeen, is still commanding attention.

A few Districts have been bombed into oblivion by the Capitol, and Everdeen is now residing in the subterranean remains called District 13.

Okay ‘remains’ may not be quite right. District 13’s surface has been made into huge bomb craters, but now it is like an upside down silo, or better yet – a super bomb shelter that has become an underground city with at least forty stories of building space, enough for the remaining population to live, far below the surface and fairly safe from bombing missions.

The main visual take away is that this film is rather dark and gloomy. The thematic take away is that this was a revolution that was televised.

Yes, so there’s a revolution a foot. Join the Fight proclaims the brand new propaganda bit of television made by the folks at District 13. Yes, they are fighting for the hearts and minds. With President Coin (Julianne Moore) rallying the populace, and her trusted media advisor Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) at the helm of the media campaign, they aim to bring down the evil President Snow and those awful folks in The Capitol.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is the face of the revolution. We watch as she’s prepped, and groomed, and trained and rehearsed again and again (Once more Katniss, this time with more energy) for her agitprop to be beamed to the entire nation.

But President Snow is nobody’s fool. Two can play the same game. He has his own infomercials. In fact he’s using Peeta Mellark as his spokesman which horrifies Katniss. Now, Mellark was a Hunger Games winner, so using him, is a devilish plan by Snow. When Peeta says, I want everyone who is watching, to lay down their weapons now, this brings forth catcalls, hisses, and boos. Peeta, once a darling of the masses, is now vilified, and justly so, as he is working for and with Snow.

As Snow says in a video chat with Katniss. Miss Everdeen, it’s the things we love most that destroy us.

But Katniss is tough. She believes Peeta has been either coerced, drugged, or his life threatened if he doesn’t do Snow’s bidding.So Katniss, who once said, I never wanted any of this, I never wanted to be in the Games, I just wanted to save my sister and keep Peeta alive, plays her own trump card –

You will rescue Peeta at the earliest opportunity, or you will find another Mockingjay.

Shazam!

So Gale and some guys strap it on, oo-rah, and head out.

Peeta as Snow's agitprop

Peeta as Snow’s agitprop

Meanwhile the propaganda war continues. And the connection to the book, The Revolution Was Televised, is that Katniss is not part of the mission. She watches it on television. The whole rescue op happens without her lifting a finger.

I think the best way to review this film is to call it a disappointing and dull effort. There are a few action set pieces, but you know what we have more of, or too much of – speeches to rally the troops, speeches to glorify The Capitol and President Snow, speeches about freedom and the enterprise of democracy. And yes, we even see the famous three-fingered salute, but only in one scene.

As I said above, the film is dark and gloomy. We see no bright sunlight scenes in forests, or mountains, or beaches. No sign of the luxury train to The Capitol, and we see no evidence of the party-life, as in Mardi Gras all day-every day in the capital city that we saw in the first two films.

Effie Trinket has lost all of her flash and pizzazz. She’s colorless and not at all inspirational. Stanley Tucci, the electric Caesar Flickerman, is also now colorless. He’s been reduced, or should I say toned down, to doing a series of Barbara-Wa-wa-like interviews to get Peeta’s scripted propaganda into play. We only see him televised while sitting in a chair playing at being a Charlie Rose, only without the intelligence or the sense of inquisitiveness.

Even Woody Harrelson, as Haymitch, seems to be uninspiried. He doesn’t smile, and there’s a reason.

In fact the only thing in this entire 123 minutes of a movie (that is as far away from epic as any thing ever made), that could be called brilliant is (drum roll please) … President Snow’s whiter than white, and pearlier than you’ve ever seen before – smile. When this black-heart in the white suit smiles, it is like a wolf smile in a wolf’s head. Get out your shades.

Did I mention the speechifying, and pontificating. Even Finnick Odair makes a speech.

Strategies for wartime operations are not discussed. Instead we have camera crews following Katniss around, and discussions about what the next video should be like. It is no wonder that Katniss threatened to a) walk off the set, and b) abandon the revolution if an exfil of Peeta wasn’t mounted immediately.

On top of all of that, this is only Part I. Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games Trilogy of books, wrote Mockingjay as the final book in the trilogy. The book was 400 pages. But this is just Part I, so we can expect a Part II at the end of next year. Okay, Lionsgate never ever stated they were a not-for-profit corporation. They can go for it. And they have.

On the same note, I have no problem stating that I attended a 10:15 AM showing this morning, and my admission was $6.94 (6.50 plus tax). I’m glad I didn’t waste more money by seeing this with the hordes that will spend top dollar to see this film tonight.

I like JenLaw and I thought she makes the best of a narrowed role in this film. Now that I think about it, everyone’s role was narrowed with two exceptions the two that were built up were Plutarch and President Coin.

By the way, I think you can count the number of times that Katniss brings her bow and arrow into play on just two fingers. She does have the one killer line in the whole movie:

I have a message for President Snow: If we burn, you burn with us!

I will rate this film at two point seven five out of five, and admit to that rating being somewhat generous. To close I will leave you with this quote from Gale Hawthorne who is played by the lackluster Liam Hemsworth. He is responding to Katniss saying that Peeta must have been coerced to say the awful things he said:

Everyone has a choice Katniss, and I’d rather die then say what he just said.

So readers you too have a choice. You can rush out and see this turkey, or you can wait until deep into next year when Netflix will get it.

The trailer:

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6 thoughts on “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I

  1. I’ve been hearing a lot of meh reviews of this one. I thought Catching Fire was genuinely good, but the decision to split the last book in two is almost certainly going to hurt the quality a bit. I’ll probably see it in a few weeks; right now, my priority is Foxcatcher.

    • Yeah, I never thought I would exit the theater after watching Mockingjay and hear comments like — Wow, this was so bad. Or a few folks started to clap at the end, as the credits rolled, but when no else joined in – the clapping stopped instantly.

      I think the differences in Birdman vs Foxcatcher are not a matter of quality of performance.I think the major differential is the story. Now I lived in New York, even knew a few struggling actors and actresses. In my lifetime, the number of Broadway shows that I saw in person is like no more than a dozen. So strictly speaking – I do not consider myself a Broadway or theatrical type. Maybe the closest I got was when I did recaps of the failed NBC Series Smash in Season 1.

      But I’ve steered clear of Foxcatcher because I’ve no experience beyond a few High school standard gym classes, where the mats were brought out and we had to learn a few grips and so forth. I never followed the sport. But I really stayed away because of the John Du Pont character. I mean from the 1st trailer I looked at on IMDB for Foxcatcher, I just knew I would not see the film.
      But that’s just me.

  2. Be thankful you don’t live in San Francisco where the cost of a nighttime showing is $12.50! That’s just for a normal showing, neither IMAX nor 3D.

    I really enjoyed your recounting the exposition of the narrative. I felt like nothing happened in this film, but your description makes it sound oh so much more exciting than it really was. 🙂

    • The fact is that I called the film disappointing and dull. I had no intention at all of making it seem exciting. Of course that is the beauty of being in a position to summarize – and make use of the selective recap process. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Dude are you kidding me? You just made me dread this even more. My girlfriend is dragging me this one and it is my turn to pay. Meaning 25 bucks on a movie that I know is made only to hype up the second part. I know that it will be dull and boring…YET I’M TRAPPED.

    Looks like I’ll have to find a new girlfriend if I want to escape this haha.

    …This is going to be such a chore!

    • Fear not – The key words are disappointing and dull. NOT DEPLORABLE.
      The film could have been a lot better, but as you said, and as others have – they’re going to take your money now, and then again next year. Suh is the way of the movie biz these days.

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