Monday, January 5, 2015

The Hunger Games -- Mockingjay, Part 1

Photo: Poster used in the viral campaign for the film, from the film's Wikipedia site.

Mockingjay, Part 1 is a very good, effective film that can be seen as a YA action movie, perhaps the first of its breed.  Jennifer Lawrence's performance and the just-right balance of action and politics carry it, and save it from being just another action film, or just another angry YA film.  I could've done without the (for me) unnecessary romance angle, but I'm not exactly the target audience for this film, and I'm okay with that.  In fact, this film deserves the same kudos as the Alien franchise, and maybe Thelma and Louise: usually action films have male main characters and the females are slower-witted things who get told what to do.  Mockingjay is exactly the opposite of that: the women here are large and in charge, and it's the men who look and act lost.  The men have to be saved by the women, not the other way around.

This is a smarter-than-usual YA movie, which I mean in the kindest of all possible ways.  It's political message is strong: if we all fight each other to the death, surely we will all die.  This makes sense.  Yet, does that mean you shouldn't rebel, as this movie (or, at least, the Capitol, strategically) says for awhile?  The answer is No, of course not.  The rebels will die if they don't rebel, and they may only die if they do.  Furthermore, it makes no sense to support a system that suppresses you.  This makes me want to go on a tangent about Southern Republicans, and the women who support the men behind that social and political system, but for now I'll refrain.  But don't get me started.

This movie should work for the older crowd, such as myself, as long as said crowd remembers that it is a YA action movie, not necessarily made for guys my age.  One immediate criticism (you knew there'd be at least one) hit me, hard, during the movie: Just as the female protagonist (Sigourney Weaver / Ripley) did in the first Alien, Jennifer Lawrence / Katniss (or, more specifically, her sister) does here: during a violent life and death crisis for a large group of people, these two women went back to get the cat.  True, Katniss goes back for her sister who had gone to get the cat, whereupon Ripley simply went back for the cat, but it's still the same.  Of course, the point is that love conquers all--and I'd be a hypocrite if I said I wouldn't risk life and limb for my own pet--but that doesn't stop me from picturing someone in the underground rebel stronghold murmuring: "Uh, could someone close that door, please?  Aren't we getting bombs dropped on us?"  It's a bothersome sequence, though, in 1979 and now, if your point is to show that women can be just as formidable in war as men.  The scenes fit the YA movie, but it didn't fit the movie's subtext.  I'm just sayin'.

And, like me, you may have to assume that the moviemakers really don't believe that an emotionless tyrant in charge of a totalitarian regime--someone so evil that he would bomb a hospital just to prove a point--would let some fighter jets and some really good, sophisticated fighters come and go as they please just to deliver a brainwashed former-boyfriend to a teenage girl who stands mostly as the symbolic representation of a rebellion.

Read that sentence again.

This point was actually discussed between a friend and I recently.  I tried picturing Saddam Hussein, for example, doing the same.  Or, maybe Stalin.  Hell, even Sherman or Ulysses S. Grant.  But, no.  They'd just overwhelm and kill such fighters, or--like Sherman and Stalin--just burn to hell everything in their paths to starve them out.  Chances are, such men wouldn't even know what such emotions were.  There's a war to win here, after all.  Snow wouldn't think he was fighting one teenage girl.  He'd know he was fighting a rebel army, with a solid leader, good fighters, a sophisticated technology expert, etc.  If a brainwashed and violent guy would be trained to go after any of those people, Katniss Everdeen would be the last person he'd strangle.  He'd be sent after President Coin first, the tech guy second.

That'd be like the U.S. South sending a hitman after Harriet Beecher Stowe, who for many was the symbolic representation of the North's stance against slavery.  Didn't happen.  (Well, to the best of my knowledge, anyway.)  Hell, that'd be like Hirohito sending kamikaze pilots after Rosie the Riveter.

But I digress.  I liked the movie.  Seriously.  It's good for all ages, if you like action movies with a political message.  Or if you enjoy looking at Jennifer Lawrence all pissed off.  Maybe she was thinking of the guy who hacked into her cloud.  (Sorry.)  Anyway, go see it, but repeat three times: It's a YA action movie...It's a YA action movie...It's a YA action movie...and a pretty good one, at that.    

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