The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part One: The Girl That Stares at Rubble

Mockingjay1

“Teenagers fall in love in a dystopian future” is the second most profitable trend in Hollywood right now after “anything with the word Marvel associated to it”. The biggest success story of this YA (young adult) boom is The Hunger Games saga, adapted from the very successful (in book terms) novels by Suzanne Collins. But because, in contemporary capitalist fashion, the third of these novels, Mockingjay, has been split into two different movies, I’ve now seen three two-hour-plus movies about the Hunger Games, and still feel like nothing has happened.

One thing’s for sure: things have gotten super dour. A lot of Mockingjay‘s running time is spent watching our heroine, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), feeling sad while she looks at ruins. She looks at what is left of her home district, she looks at the ruins of a bombarded hospital, and she looks at the rubble that is left after an attack by the oppressive government that seems to have been a way for evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland) to weaken the rebels as much as a twisted practical joke on Katniss’s expense.

So, yeah, if you need me to set this movie up for you, then you’re probably not a person who was actually planning on watching it, but I guess I’ll do it anyway. The gist of it is that Katniss was saved by a group of rebels that live in the underground District 13. These rebels have elected Julianne Moore as their president, so you know they’re smart. They also want to use Katniss newly iconic status as a symbol of defiance against the evil Capitol to unite the other districts in an armed revolution.

Mild spoilers, I guess, but by the end of Mockingjay, this revolution has not started. This is something that slightly infuriates me. I knew there was going to be a revolution against the Capitol five minutes into the first Hunger Games, and yet, here I am, seven hours later, and still nothing. I can only be jerked around so much, you know? The plot of these movies relies too heavily in inaction and ambivalence. The whole thing hinges on the protagonist refusing to take action, and instead worrying about the boy she kinda has fallen in love with but not really. Jennifer Lawrence may be a great actress, but I’ve seen way more of her being sad about Josh Hutcherson than I needed in my life.

The truth is that Mockingjay is by no means a terrible movie, just a very unsatisfying one. More so than either of the previous installments, the movie’s emotional center relies on Katniss’s love for Peeta (Josh Hutcherson’s character), and the tension resulting from the fact that he has been kidnapped by the government that the rebels are trying to take down. Because this is based on YA novels, there is also Gale (Liam Hemsworth), a hunky guy who also really likes Katniss, and is apparently very devoted to the revolutionary cause.

The problem here is that neither Peeta nor Gale are very interesting. Actually, they’re not interesting at all. My girlfriend has accurately described Peeta as a “basic bitch”, while Gale is your cookie-cutter handsome YA dude with no personality whatsoever. Why Katniss would fall for any of these boring dudes is beyond me. Although I understand that she is a ver vulnerable person, I will go to my grave insisting that the character she should have fallen for is Johanna Mason, who is barely in this movie, but had a bigger role in Catching Fire, and as played by Jena Malone, is by far the best character in the series.

On that note, what this movie needed was more Jena Malone, which is to say it needed a little bit more life. The whole enterprise is unnecessarily depressing. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Elizabeth Banks try to lighten the mood, but there’s only so much they can do. I get that the situation these characters are in is supposed to be pretty miserable, but I would have liked a little more human spark to the movie. The one exception I can think of, and my favorite moment in the movie, is a little scene of Katniss having fun by making a cat chase a spotlight.

It’s a side of the character that I had never seen. One that showed me that there was more to Katniss Everdeen than her complain-filled schtick. I wish there was more of that in this movie, and a reason for this awesome archer not wanting to lead the revolution other than the safety of this one boy. At least I got that cute cat.

Grade: 5 out of 10.

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