Last updated on March 16th, 2017 at 01:03 am
Last November the popular dystopian series returned with its third film, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. As someone who is familiar with the books, I was very excited for what was to pass in the next installment. After Katniss Everdeen, “The Girl On Fire”, destroyed the Quarter Quell games and escaped with some unknown help, we find Katniss in an isolated medical facility. The facility turns out to be the long extinct District 13. Her being there was a result of the annihilation of her home, District 12. In District 13, a society of rebel fighters had been preparing to overthrow the Capital for years. Katniss’ actions in the games were the final push that they needed to declare war against the Capital.
The leaders of District 13, Plutarch Heavensbee and President Alma Coin, inform Katniss that she is the symbol of the rebellion and she is needed to rally the other districts against the Capital. The fate of the war relies on Katniss’ ability to urge the districts to unify and fight for their freedom. This all sounds good and dandy, but Katniss is not the same Katniss she was in the previous films. After losing her home, losing Peeta, and suffering a traumatic experience during the Quarter Quell, Katniss is a only a shadow of her former self. She never asked to be the Mockingjay, and she realizes she is only a pawn in a much larger game, a game she didn’t know she was playing. Katniss’ only motivation to help the cause is finding a way to save Peeta, who has been held captive by the Capital. With this in mind, Katniss attempts to find her inner strength and lead the districts to victory.
After seeing Katniss grow into a heroine and challenge the Capital time and time again, it was strange to see her cower in a dimly lit medical facility. Throughout the entire film, Katniss is just a mess. She suffers from horrible nightmares. She spends most of the time completely silent or screaming incoherently. There are times when we see a glimmer of her strength, but they are few and far between. It is these actions that truly set the tone for the rest of the film. The entire series has always had a dark overtone, but this film takes it the furthest. There is very little good news and the characters seem to lose their footing quite easily against the Capital. The sense of hopelessness is very real and there is never a break from it. Even the scenes depicting the districts revolting against Capital soldiers were solemn and left a sour taste in my mouth. Their view of Katniss is so high and they sacrifice their lives inspired by her actions. Meanwhile, Katniss is having a nervous breakdown every few seconds. What really sealed the deal for me was seeing Peeta’s worsening condition as he was being tortured by the Capital. Peeta’s face was covered in concealed wounds and his face was gaunt with hunger. The entire film just felt extremely depressing. What didn’t help was the fact that this film is only a lead in to Mockingjay Part 2. The hopelessness never had a resolution and there was no real story progression. The characters started and finished in worse circumstances.
With all that being said, I do understand that this depiction of Katniss’ growing insanity is rather realistic. I think of the many soldiers who have risked their lives to protect our country. These are trained soldiers and they still suffer from traumatic stress or night terrors. Life isn’t the same after experiencing the burdens of war. Katniss volunteered as tribute, but never expected herself to be in that situation. All the circumstances surrounding her troubled mind were very understandable. She lost Peeta and feared him dead. When she saw him, he was just as much a shade of himself as she was, although it manifested itself physically. Katniss was forced to be the Mockingjay. She was only a product of her environment and all she could do was try to hold it together a day at a time.
Despite my reservations with the plot progression, many of the events from the book held true to the film adaptation. Watching Katniss attempt to rally the districts using futuristic advertising was interesting. Jennifer Lawrence played her part as Katniss well, but compared to many of her recent films, this character is rather dull. I much prefer seeing Jennifer as Mystique in X-Men, or alongside Bradley Cooper in The Silverlining Playbook. Some other highlights included much more screen time for Gale played by Liam Hemsworth. He has always been an important character in terms of the story, but never received the screen time to show for it. It was also pleasing to see the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman reprise his role as Plutarch, the undercover ally of District 13. Many of the other characters who survived the events from Catching Fire also made small but unimportant appearances. The appearances included Elizabeth Banks returning as a less dazzling Effie Trinket, Jeffrey Wright as the intelligent Beetee, Woody Harrelson as a sober Haymitch and much more.
The real issue with this film was how it affected the characters. It was essential for the plot, but I think it really hurt it in the end. Most of the characters were no longer who we remember them to be just a year ago. Many of them received little screen time. Most of that was reserved for crying Katniss. Overall, the film was glum and although it had some strengths, I was mostly disappointed by the lack of progression. Most films have a beggining middle and end, even if it is a lead in film. This film showed no evolution. I am hoping Part 2 will turn it around and show some resolve.