The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part One

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part One

Based on the young adult series by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games has become a bit of a phenomenon since the first film was released back in 2012. Boasting a larger production budget, even more glorious cast and a gorgeous soundtrack, Mockingjay Part One had high expectations. Beware of spoilers, all ye who enter here.

When we last saw our young heroine Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), she was reeling in the aftermath of the Quarter Quell, having electrified the arena and temporarily disrupted the Capitol’s plans. She had just discovered the existence of a rebel faction in the apparently abandoned District 13. Run as an underground organisation by President Coin (Julianne Moore), the District possesses excellent defences and enough resources to sustain rescued victors as well as other deserters from Panem. Familiar faces, such as Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), Effie (Elizabeth Banks), Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Finnick (Sam Claflin) and Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) make appearances to support Katniss in her new, if unwanted role, as the Mockingjay: the symbol of revolution. Mockingjays imitate, with one eventually leading the whole flock to sing one melody. The citizens use Rue’s whistle as a signal for action and become a collective, discarding their individualism, not for the false “Panem Forever” of the Capitol but for true unity.

The scale of the series has gone from the specific of the games to the larger Panem population. The stakes are higher, with more deaths at the hands of the Capitol. District 12 has been eradicated as a punishment for Katniss’ actions, and President Snow (Donald Sutherland) has begun a propaganda war between the Capitol and the rebels with Katniss and Peeta the pawns in the political game. There’s an effective juxtaposition between the gritty underground bunker of the rebels and the shining artifice of the Capitol, but the audience gets a few rare glimpses into the latter. This adds to speculation regarding the treatment of the victors that weren’t rescued by the rebels.

This trailer is a great piece of meta-fiction as it demonstrates the key element of District 13 hacking into the Capitol’s network, reclaiming control over the media. There is ‘Capitol TV‘ propaganda and President Snow’s addresses that were released in the run-up to the film’s opening. Katniss spearheads the motto: “If we burn, you burn with us” whilst Peeta asks: “How will this end? No one can survive this”. Katniss is put back into the fray with a camera/defence team to create propaganda that will truly move the people. Whilst Katniss chooses to be the Mockingjay symbol of her own free will, she is still manipulated as the rebel figurehead.

Peeta’s manipulation is more explicit and overtly immoral, but the rebels’ actions are almost as questionable as those of the Capitol. President Coin makes speeches similar to those of President Snow, and she is adamant that there can be no victory without “sacrifice”. One of the most provoking scenes in the movie takes place against an anthem of revolution almost evocative of African American spirituals. District 13 encourage citizens to go rogue but has very little power to protect them from the wrath of the Capitol.

Overall Mockingjay Part One was an incredibly strong film. It developed themes of control, competition and fear established in the series. It also raised troubling questions regarding the future of Panem and its citizens. There are some genuinely poignant moments and purposeful scenes of tension and action that are so effective because of the cinematography, soundtrack and diverse cast.

P.S. I’m planning to eventually write retrospective articles about Catching Fire and the original Hunger Games film.

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