‘Mockingjay: Part 1’ Review: The revolution will be televised

Zig Marasigan
'In 'Mockingjay,' the series comes into its own,' writes movie reviewer Zig Marasigan
BURN WITH US. Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen. Screengrab from Facebook
TEAM GALE? Katniss' childhood friend now fights for District 13. Photo from Facebook

Jennifer Lawrence’s rise to stardom has been meteoric. Sixteen films, an academy award, and over a thousand animated gifs later, Lawrence has turned herself into a champion for the wired youth. There’s no discounting Lawrence’s exemplary talent, but her candid and magnetic personality has made her the perfect icon for a generation that is starved for connection. And in Mockingjay Part 1, that’s exactly what Lawrence has become.

Mockingjay Part 1 is the first in the two-part finale of the wildly successful Hunger Games franchise. The two-part split feels like a studio-mandated cash grab, but fans seem perfectly happy with any reason to return to the embattled dystopian districts of Panem.

The film picks up after the rousing conclusion of Catching Fire. The games are over, and the headstrong and steel-willed Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has survived a second time. But after shooting a literal arrow into the plans of the oppressive President Snow (Donald Sutherland), Katniss becomes the unwilling face of the rebellion, an underground movement determined to topple Snow and the rest of his callous Capitol.

The Hunger Games has long been criticized for being a toothless, Western adaptation of Kinji Fukasuka’s Battle Royale. But in Mockingjay, the series comes into its own. This latest entry may lack the breakneck pace and survivalist urgency of previous films, but the film unfolds more like an elaborate chess game than a big-budget action film.

“Moves and countermoves,” President Snow mutters under his breath as he plans his next play against Katniss and her fellow rebels. But for both the rebellion and the Capitol, they know that the real battle is waged and won on television screens.

TRUE LOVE. The reserved Katniss loves at least one person unconditionally – her little sister, Primrose. Screengrab from YouTube

Still in the game

Once again, Katniss is forced to become an unwilling hero. But this time, it is rebel President Coin (Julianne Moore) and spin doctor turned revolutionary, Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman), that try to transform Katniss from soldier into symbol. But just like Lawrence in real life, it is Katniss’ unscripted moments that connect with the larger populace of Panem.

When videos of Katniss are broadcast across Panem, her presence becomes the rebellion’s most effective weapon against the Capitol. And as insurgents take the fight to President Snow, it becomes increasingly clear that Katniss is a more effective killing machine on camera than on the battlefield. Katniss still brandishes her trademark bow, but it is her finely crafted image that becomes her real weapon.

 

When Katniss is reunited with former tribute escort Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), we are reminded that even revolutions need celebrities.

“Everyone is going to want to kill you, kiss you, or be you,” Effie tells her. 

But when President Snow uses Katniss’ partner Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) as a way of winning over the masses, Katniss realizes that her strongest opposition may very well be her most trusted friend. And though Katniss and Peeta may be free from the Games, they have instead been turned into pawns on different sides of the board.

EFFIE TRINKET. Firmly, as we see, on Team Katniss. Screengrab from YouTube

Leading the revolution

There’s no disguising the fact that Mockingjay, like the rest of the Hunger Games series, is designed as mass market entertainment. But it just so happens to be a compelling exploration of celebrity adoration and media influence.

Lawrence and Katniss may seem like completely different people on paper, but they are comparable in ways that goes well beyond their individual personalities. On one hand, Lawrence is a charming, bubbly and spontaneous movie star. Katniss is a gruff, no nonsense soldier. But both of them have become symbols in their own right, and they have used and have been used by the media to serve a much larger agenda.

The Hunger Games has unreasonably been lumped alongside other young adult franchises like Twilight and Divergent. But I think The Hunger Games is a clear cut above the rest. Mockingjay is a toned down continuation of earlier films, but it continues the trend of being both entertaining and thematically engaging. And though that may not be the case in other series, there seems to be no one better to lead the revolution than Jennifer Lawrence. – Rappler.com