Sometimes, a really good story can affect the viewer in the most profound ways. But rarely are said offerings of the science fiction genre. Yes, science fiction moves us to imagine far off and fantastic worlds filled with characters who go above and beyond to overcome insurmountable odds. But rarely do they make one ponder their own days and times through the lens offered by these stories. However, the film The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is one of those films.The manner in which these fictional events taking place in a horrible dystopian future mirrors the social interactions apparent in American society today left this writer awe struck.
Taken from The Hunger Games series penned by famed author Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 takes place in a far-flung future in which the United States as we know it is has been decimated by civil war, ecological disaster and starvation. In place of the democracy now sits a dictatorship that rules from the Capitol and the country is now called Panem. As was illustrated in the first two installments of the franchise, the Capitol usurps the resources from each of the existing 12 districts and only gives back ironfisted control under the guise of security in return. The annual Hunger Games pit chosen tributes from each district against one another in a national televised combat sport from which only one victor can emerge alive.
Mockingjay Part 1 finds Katniss Everdeen awakening in the heretofore believed destroyed District 13 after shattering the dome of The Hunger Games Arena in the Quarter Quell. She finds that her mother and younger sister, as well as her bestfriend Gale Hawthorne, have been rescued, but upon visiting District 12 finds the Capitol has exacted deadly revenge on her fellow District members with a catastrophic bombing campaign meant to wipe her hometown out of existence. Now she is forced to deal with the consequences of her actions and must look deep within herself to see if she has what it takes to lead a rebellion that she unwittingly sparked with her actions.
We also find that the Districts are nearly in open revolt against the Capitol and were inspired to protest and stage work strikes, to which the Capitol responds in its usual heavy-handed manner.
Meanwhile, Peeta, Joanna Mason and Annie Cresta are being held in the Capitol by President Snow and Peeta is being used to create Pro-Capitol propaganda videos. Eventually, Katniss agrees that she is in fact the one to lead the rebellion and takes up the guise of the Mockingjay.
With the very visceral instances of social upheaval that have occurred in the United States over the past five years the events in Mockingjay Part 1, though sensationalized and taken to the extreme, helped drive home the very real message of resistance against all odds that the entire franchise seems to be trying to get across.
Additionally, the acting of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen seems to be getting exponentially better with each film. Initially, I felt like her emotional outbursts in the film were a bit contrived. However, I then remembered that she is playing the role of a teenage girl who is thrust into circumstances that may eventually determine the outcome of a revolution. After that I gained an even greater appreciation for her acting. She also sings an eerie rendition of a folk song called “The Hanging Tree” that was as moving as any cinematic vocalization that I’ve seen in years.
Donald Sutherland is as scary and gleefully wicked a villain as I’ve seen in recent cinematic history as well. Part of what makes him so creepy is his humanity. He’s not a floating eye or a cyborg killing machine, but a maniacal human being who will do anything to remain in power. Additionally, the social and class constraints that were alluded to in prior films comes full circle in Mockingjay Part 1 as well. Also turning in substantial performances are crafted by Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, Jeffrey Wright as BeeTee and Julianne Moore as President Alma Coin of District 13. The Shadow League gives The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 a solid A for social awareness, brilliant acting and for instilling a sense of humanity in the protagonists and antagonists alike. Really good stuff.