I have previously rolled my eyes at cinema’s commercial obsession with splitting every final installment of a popular franchise into two-parts, even though they’d condensed the previous films quite happily into a feature-length time frame. But having seen ‘The Mockingjay – Part 1’ I feel so grateful that I will have another few hours to soak up this series I have become increasingly engrossed in, even if it means waiting an entire year to find out what happens to all those characters I care far too much about (unless I finally get around to reading those books!).
This latest ‘Hunger Games’ film follows a very different, and I would argue, darker plotline to its previous installments. Taking place immediately after the events of ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’, we find Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in a hospital ward together with fellow Hunger Games survivor, Finnick (Sam Calflin). The brief, tearful exchange between the two before the title credits appear on screen let us know we are in for a dark journey.
Some expectant viewers have already expressed disappointment that this film will feature no tours of the vibrant and colourful Capitol, and not even a Hunger Games arena, but that being said would you honestly not tire of three films revolving around this tournament? We know how that works now, its time we delved deeper into the atrocities of President Snow’s (Donald Sutherland) order-obsessed government.
This film truly does reach a lot further into the inner workings of a government that has allowed a tournament such as the Hunger Games to become an annual media-frenzy for the past seventy-six years of its rule. As a huge fan of the sweet and selfless Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) it was sad to see his role confined to a couple of propaganda-infused interviews with the hateful TV host (Stanley Tucci). But if you think these scenes will be unfulfilling then think again. So much depth and emotion is drawn out of these scenes as we watch the loveable Peeta breaking before our eyes, with only Katniss and us fellow hapless viewers able to see there is something far more horrifying going on beneath the surface. It is through Peeta’s limited screen-time that we are given the full blast of the power President Snow is capable of infusing onto any of his innocent civilians. Sat in his rich halls and fine clothes, President Snow is far more sinister than the conventional teen fiction villain, exposing his malice and contempt with a smile on his face, all credited to Donald Sutherland’s calm performance in the role.
It is understandable that viewer’s may be turned off by the film’s different approach, set almost entirely in bombed-out cities and the claustrophobic District 13, that itself resembles a bomb site. With the glamorous Effie (Elizabeth Banks) restricted to ugly, green jump suits and Katniss turned into a media weapon for President Coin (Julianne Moore) and her sidekick, Plutarch Heavensbee (the late Phillip Seymour-Hoffman) to use as their revolutionary tool. However, I found the film incredibly rewarding for its exploration of the power of dictatorship governments, brainwashing their civilians into a state of catatonic fear that has frightening connotations with our own world.
As a work of teenage fiction, ‘The Hunger Games’ trilogy really deserves to be applauded for the intelligence it grants its young viewers. While it has obviously been created with a young audience in mind, it is clear from the film adaptations that Suzanne Collins is not concerned about the happy outcome. Whilst with the previous two films we may feel quite secure that our protagonist will somehow manage to get through to the end, the film’s conclusions are always tinged with the bitter realisation that President Snow will not go down easily.
If ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ left you eagerly awaiting more, ‘The Mockingjay – Part 1’ will have you desperately anticipating if Katniss is able to lead the revolution to a new age, or if they are already too late.