Sunday, December 7, 2014

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One” Review (2014)

Who’d thunk junior high schoolers would’ve had such a penchant for paramilitary politics?


Watching “Mockingjay,” I just had to keep asking myself what the popularity of “The Hunger Games” really means for us as a culture. To kids today, what does the dystopian hellhole of Panem actually symbolize -- is it a metaphor for the police state, or an allegory for our collective loss of privacy in the Facebook era or the still palpable auger of the Great Recession and a life shittier than those lived by their parents?

The quite literally mock heroics of Jennifer Lawrence, I believe, indicate but one thing: goodness, do American young ‘uns in the year of our lord 2014 really, really want to taste war and crushing poverty.

Whether you choose to view Suzanne Collins’ much beloved series as “Battle Royale” lite or paramilitary pandering to the “Shelby Woo” weaned masses, its undeniable that “The Hunger Games” franchise has struck a chord with Gen Y. Politcos on the left and the right both say the books and corresponding films are indicative of tweens leaning toward their ideology, but mayhap kids today ACTUALLY do want to find themselves thrust in guerilla juntas and daily life-and-death struggles the same way Miss Everdeen does?

As I’ve written before, good old fashioned wide scale warfare seems to be the best cure for the adolescent blues, and in my eyes, the success of “The Hunger Games” is all the evidence I need to support the theory. Our gilded youth are sick and tired of being coddled at home and going through the rigors of post-recession ennui; they want to form a human wall and overpower security guards and blow up dams, by golly, and all Mrs. Collins is doing is giving the peoples the celluloid fantasy they thirst for.

I haven’t seen the first “Hunger Games,” but I did see “Catching Fire.” I’m probably missing a whole lot not having seen the 2012 film (considered by some retards to portend the Sandy Hook school massacre, if you can believe it), but from the gist of the last film, I reckon I have a pretty good grasp on what’s going on heading into this third flick.

So, Katniss and Peeta were forced to compete in “The Running Man, Jr.” and after they won, they became national celebrities and marketing tools for the Capital -- the big, super evil federal overseer who puts the boot to any poverty-stricken dissidents that even think about asking for potable water. But, at the end of the last movie, Katniss is rescued by some sort of anti-government revolutionary group, led by Julianne Moore in a bad wig and Philip Seymour Hoffman, back when he was still not dead and stuff. By the way, with those eyebrows, holy shit, should he have played John Madden if they had ever made a biopic about him.

“Mockingjay,” then, picks up precisely where the last film left off. Katniss has been recruited by the resistance to become the literal face of their propaganda efforts, which basically entail her poorly reading lines in front of a green screen while a dude in a wheelchair edits it in Photoshop. Meanwhile, Peeta -- the albino love interest who’s so pale, he makes Ed Cullen look like a Puerto Rican -- is up there in the Capital, where Stanley Tucci feeds him lines in bullshit government-fabricated television interviews.

So, the resistance decide to take a page out of the oppressor’s book and cook up their own wartime propaganda, even hiring this blonde chick with a Trent Reznor-circa-1990 haircut and a dude without a tongue to walk around filming her in the middle of war zones while she points at rubble and makes aircraft carriers explode with one arrow. Oh, and at one point, Woody Harrelson shows up, and he’s all drunk and stuff. Or talking about wanting to be drunk and stuff, which I supposed wouldn’t be all that indistinguishable from the actual words that come out of his mouth on a daily basis.

So, the Capital decide to order an air strike on the resistance compound, but they can’t really find it, and there’s this part where Katniss’s sister tries to find a cat when the airlocks are about to close shut, and when the bombing is over, there’s a whole bunch of white roses everywhere, which I think is supposed to be symbolic and stuff.

Then, Katniss records a song that sounds a lot like a tribute to Jim Crow era lynchings, which apparently galvanizes the downtrodden into picking up their arms and sticking it to the man. Eventually, the resistance decide to storm the Capital and rescue Peeta by knocking out their power grid, and there’s this one part where Katniss and President Snow -- played by Donald Sutherland, who by some voodoo spell, is still alive -- and everybody thinks he’s going to capture the raiders, but they manage to get out alive unscathed. Except for one catch: when Peeta awakens, he’s all psychotic and stuff and he tries to strangle Katniss to death. Apparently, the feds gave him some crazy juice and subject him to the old “Clockwork Orange” treatment so now he’s been all reverse psychology-fied to hate his girlfriend and stuff.

And on that note, the movie ends, leaving the door wide ass open for “Mockingjay Part 2,” which will undoubtedly make a ton of money at the Cineplex next autumn.

All in all, I thought “Mockingjay” was a pretty decent movie, but a bit of a step down from “Catching Fire.” I thought the mock Gaullism going on was a bit much, and I strongly preferred the sillier violence of the last flick -- complete with blood storms and stinging insect attacks and whatnot -- over the blunter bullet-to-the-skull fascist mayhem on full display here.

Alas, I have a hard time chastising any movie that glorifies anti-statist furor to middle schoolers, and if given the choice between the skirts from Frozen or Katniss’ federalist-slaying ass? Yeah, I’m going to encourage my daughter to model herself after the character who has no qualms about exploding public infrastructure, thank you very much.

My Score:



Two and a half tofu dogs out of four.

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