Mockingjay Part 1 begins with Katniss hiding in a corner, frantically whispering out loud to no one. She is repeating her own name, and that she was in the Hunger Games. It’s very unsettling and also slightly informational, in case you missed the first two movies.
Katniss’ break from cool, calm reserve quickly prepares you for what is possibly the darkest Y.A. movie of all time (other than Kids, if that counts as Y.A.). All tweenyboppers who go to this movie excited about seeing Gale’s ripped muscles and baby blues, beware, because you’re about to get a crash course in the types of violent horror that exist in the world. Skeletons pile high in District 12, evoking scenes from the Nazi genocide. Government aircrafts bomb hospitals and knock over large buildings, which fall and crush people. Airstrikes cause people to hide, lose power and watch as the ceiling around them starts to crack and shake. Land mines explode. Boys are beaten and dehumanized until they want to kill their own loved ones. Open wounds are everywhere.
The world is ugly children. If you didn’t know that, it’s all right here, in the new Hunger Games movie. Feels kind of weird, huh?
The newest and most important type of game being played in this war is almost what I’d like to call a movie-off. The capitol makes a film of an interview with Peeta, who they’ve captured, speaking out against the rebellion (while wearing aggressively pointy ties …).
In turn, Katniss and her rebel allies, including a group of MTV veejay-like escapees starring Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones, The Tudors), make their own response movies. Feeling meta yet? In this world, it’s all about who owns the narrative. While the government’s movies are like daytime talk show segments, the rebels’ feature real life, on-the-ground documentaries and even at one point, Katniss singing a song about meeting by a hanging tree.
It is interesting how some of the most powerful forms of strategy in this fictional world come in the forms of compelling costumes, fake romances, poetic films and efforts to “get people to like you.” It’s an interesting example of what war strategy might look like if Hollywood-types were behind it. Or maybe I mean creative types. Or non-violent types. Or women?
With Catching Fire, the Hunger Games saga effectively proved it can reach a Star Wars level of epic storytelling and provocative significance. What started as one girl trying to survive has fully escalated into a story of political corruption and rebellion painted in rich colors.
Katniss Everdeen is the hero of an entire generation, and she’s playing out to be quite a compelling one. Rather than falling into the female hero tropes of a gifted, “chosen” martial artist who looks sexy in leather, she’s an austere, distant, somewhat disturbed girl with little incentive to charm those around her.
(Side note: Do kids in this generation like depressive-type protagonists? Bella Swan seemed to open this door in an interesting way.)
The only thing that’s frustrating about Katniss is her complete inability to acknowledge having a higher purpose. Throughout Mockingjay – Part 1, she reiterates many times that she doesn’t want to be a hero, she just wants to help her sister. Or Peeta. Or her sister’s cat. She is content to have us believe that this whole rebellion was a strange side-effect of her desire to help her sister. Take a stance Katniss! It’s ok for female protagonists to want to do more than be good big sisters/girlfriends.
While it is kind of annoying that they split the final book up into two movies, it’s for the best. After watching two hours of the darkness that makes up the penultimate chapter of the Hunger Games saga, you’ll be ready for a break. It’s a brave and startlingly dark film, but you’ll need a year or so to digest what you just saw.
I give it 9 bad-ass braids out of 10.