In the futuristic world of dystopian young adult fiction, one day everything will simply become plot points and angst.
“The world will be destroyed if I don’t cry really hard right now,” the protagonist wailed, followed shortly by an intense burst of crying really hard. The world was saved. “Phew! Thank goodness I have these great new clothes that make me look smart and sophisticated.”
That was just an example of what a story like The Hunger Games will turn into in about 20 years (if we’re lucky). The third film in the series (inspired by the trilogy book series by Suzanne Collins) does more than prove that the extended storyline is really just an exercise in literary paint-by-numbers. It shows that there are really only three or four colours, two of which are probably black.
Mockingjay – Part I (because no trilogy is complete without a fourth chapter; Douglas Adams taught everyone that trick) brings us to the tricky spot after Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) somehow destroyed the electrical dome over the arena in which she was in competition during her second Hunger Games appearance.
For the uninitiated, the Games are a barbaric and sadistic contrivance that finds youths from the ages of 12 to 18 chosen by lottery to fight to the death. There are 12 districts in Panem, the name given to this weird brave new world, and each must send one male and one female to the annual battle royale. Katniss and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), her fellow district mate, survive the original games and then are called back to a second battle called the Quarter Quell.
And yes, everything does have a strange name in this series. Somehow, it makes it all the more believable and vibrant. Why shouldn’t Katniss and Peeta survive the Quarter Quell, all with the drunken coaching of Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) who can further instruct them on how to defeat the Capitol led by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) by fuelling a growing rebellion throughout all the districts of Panem? Maybe it’s all hogwash and hornswoggle but that’s just scuttlebutt as far as I’m concerned.
Anyway, Katniss ends up in the mysterious underground District 13 where its president Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) wants her to become the face of a propaganda media campaign to further rally support for the rebellion against the Capitol. So they put her in more fancy clothes (remember those ones that looked like they were on fire?) and she can recite a script about how Snow is bad and freedom is good. Trouble is that she doesn’t really work with plans and procedures. She’s a pure rebel teenager, after all. She doesn’t follow rules. She’s not a part of the system. Nothing but self-designed destiny for her. Haymitch convinces Coin and the very well equipped media crew in the concrete bunker located way, way underground to let her pick up a weapon, be escorted on a very powerful jet and go off to explore the ruins of the districts. Of course, it doesn’t take long for her to cook up an inspiring speech, all thanks to a timely bombing raid by the Capitol and Coin’s video crew tagging along with all of their high tech equipment to catch the special moments.
Colour me a bit befuddled but something doesn’t ring true to the invented universe of the Hunger Games stories. Coin and District 13 are relegated to an immense concrete bunker underground. Where’d they get all that concrete and how did they pour it without anyone official noticing? What about that jet? Pretty nice toy, but aren’t you guys all a bunch of ragtag rebels who are fighting for food scraps just to survive? How did you pay for your own personal Maverick to go to Top Gun School, again without anybody official noticing?
And what about all of that film and video equipment? Did you build that bunker with the express purpose of turning it into a film studio, ’cause that’s what it looks like?
This world of Panem sounds like a crummy place except that so much of it seems like a stage where everything is set up to either rise or fall on cue. And to be honest, it’s just not that believable. Even though I want to, I just don’t buy in to the story or the characters or anything. It’s great to have a strong female lead protagonist but, for all of the war and grime she experiences, you might think her skin might experience some blemishes. You might think her stylish clothes might get a rip. They do not. For all of her crying and exertions, Katniss could still walk down the Capitol catwalk any time without batting an eyelid or lash.
And she does. This whole movie is a catwalk with a grand series of weirdly named characters prancing and turning on cue, their presences choreographed precisely like cogs in a machine. Despite the wailing, this movie has about as much humanity and emotion in it as a machine too.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Elizabeth Banks, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, and Donald Sutherland
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Written by Peter Craig and Danny Strong, adapted from the novel by Suzanne Collins
Rated PG for violence
Runtime: 123 minutes
Now playing at Cineplex Odeon North Edmonton and Scotiabank Theatres