Thursday, December 4, 2014

Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part I

This morning the stars aligned and fate worked out so that I actually got to a movie in a theatre...What a concept! A fan of The Hunger Games franchise, I wanted very much to see Mockingjay.  So, this morning at 10:00 am with the rest of the seniors I went to see it.

This film, with the biggest box office sales of any film this holiday season so far, is a faithful adaptation of the book (the first half, anyway.) Like Harry Potter and Twilight, the last Hunger Games film will be be made into two.  I guess it's a matter of earnings, although it leaves the fans of the books waiting for the final resolution.

The filmmakers in this case ended the action in the middle of a horrendous scene.  So I guess we fans are supposed to be all prepped for the next one due out next year about the same time.  As a fan, even though I know what will happen I have to say, "GAH!!!!!"

Of course the writer in me says, "remember to end the scene on a cliff-hanger, Grasshopper.  That way the reader will turn the page and read more of the story.  Of course, Master Yoda"...(mixing my media there.)

Though I came prepared to cry in one scene, I did not.  Instead I was filled with righteous anger at the injustice, sort of like Katniss.  And it is the spark that lights her revolutionary fire. From that point, the film becomes the story of a fight against a walled-off privileged few who live off the sweat of everyone else's brows.

In some respects as the action takes place in the drab districts among poor people, often dressed in monotones, the film isn't as colorful a picture as its predecessors. But this is not a "bright, happy" little film. After all, there are no singing/dancing snowmen cavorting around, or princesses in formal gowns. Besides, I'd sooner look at a pile of burned bodies in tones of white, grey, and black.  It's stark and realistic, and again fuels the fire of resentment against President Snow and the Capitol City dwellers.

This is the story of a burgeoning revolution against the privileged citizenry of the Capitol - where everyone is outlandishly well dressed, ridiculously coiffed and painted.  Indeed, I have heard Effie Trinket's (Elizabeth Banks) look compared to Japan's Kabuki players.  In Mockingjay, Effie is a refugee from the Capitol, damned by her close association with Katniss.  She is lucky to escape with her life, as poor Cinna did not.
In District 13, her new refuge, she tries to enliven her look, but only has a few pieces with which to work.  So she opts for the neutral look of the other residents, wearing self-wound tignons of black or dark grey, that give her the look of Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) before her shows were filmed in color.

As you can imagine, the images of the hedonistic Capitol City folk, in their garish clothes, placing bets on which tributes will die in the Hunger Games, while representatives chosen by lottery from all the outlying districts, fight to the death on live TV is sickening enough.  It goes to follow that those people working themselves to death in the districts might get just a tad peeved. The first two films have led to this conclusion.

This film is a spot-on adaptation of the book.  The cast including all of the original players all do excellent jobs in their roles.  Jennifer Lawrence gives a finely nuanced performance which breathes life into the character Katniss.  You feel her pain and burn with her indignation.  You also experience her fear at the ending.

Donald Sutherland makes an evil villain as President Snow.  In a career of wonderful villains, it is perhaps his most chilling.

Josh Hutcherson as the tortured Peeta, gives a much more wrenching performance in this one than in the two previous films.

Also noteworthy are Liam Hemsworth as Gale, Woody Harrelson as Heymitch, and the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch, the games master, in his last role.  In fact, this film is dedicated to him.

Look for newcomer to the franchise, Natalie Dormer as Desideria, the film chronicler of Katniss and the Mockingjay movement.  You may recognize her as the princess who wed evil King Joffrey in an ill-fated wedding on Game of Thrones, although she looks quite different.

Julianne Moore, award winning actress (she played Sarah Palin on HBO's film "Game Change" among many other roles), plays President Coin, who holds sway over District 13 and coordinates the revolution.  She is a determined woman filled with zeal to destroy those who destroyed her family and her life. She does an excellent job in the role, ably playing a woman who masks her pain in fervor.

If you haven't seen any of the previous films or read the books, you should rent the videos to understand what exactly is happening and why. I promise you, it will be well worth it.

And yes, I look forward to Mockingjay, Part 2.  It's nice to be reminded that I have always been a rebel, anxious to fight against inequality and injustice where I find it.  You go, Katniss!

Until next time, go to a movie.  If I can do it, anybody can...

p.s. Nothing derogatory is meant against the wonderful Disney film, Frozen.  I loved that one.  It's just a very different kind of entertainment from the Hunger Games films.

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