Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Revolution Will Be Televised

Reel To Reel: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

Going Rate: Worth full price admission
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore
Rated: PG-13
Red Flags: Sci-fi violence and war atrocities

The Hunger Games is not science fiction as much as it is social-science fiction. It's not a fantasy about how people have advanced or the tech surrounding them, but what they have created or destroyed and done to themselves that transcends any timeline. This is why Suzanne Collins' universe has so much impact. It's not about tomorrow; it's about today disguised as tomorrow modulated against your political leanings.

I noted the second film in this saga was mostly setup. Now we're at the payoff stage. Panem is coming apart as the rebellion grows, and Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) is the reluctant face of the revolution. It's not a battle she wants to fight, but yet she is motivated by the capitol's destruction of her former home, District 12. Now living with her family in District 13, a deep underground bunker of the resistance, she has to find her role in this struggle. If she refuses to take leadership of the uprising, it could flame out. If she does, the cost could be tremendous, including the life of her love Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson).

Peeta is now in the hands of the Capitol, and he looks like he's turned traitor. Maybe. You know how your girlfriends always seem to know more about you than you think? Kat detects something is amiss as Peeta nearly begs for peace on state-controlled television. The resistance, in the meantime, is planting "propos:" propaganda bombs even more powerful than the dark money ads we saw in the midterms. Katniss is their star, but getting the right message out requires more than just looking good on camera.

Enter handler Effie Trinket (Banks). She's depressed and de-ruffled after ending up in the resistance bunker, sentenced to drab green instead of her beloved gaudiness. If this revolution succeeds, will the districts sentence the Capitol residents to wear t-shirts and sweat pants? Never mind. Trinket still knows how to coax out the right words, but it's up to Kat to give the performance. Gamemaker-turned-propagandist Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman, in a bittersweet farewell performance) knows exactly what needs to happen with the businesslike manner of a political public-relations man. District 13 president Alma Coin (Moore) has a cool and inspiring manner of a stateswoman, but you have to wonder, is she a little too cool and measured? At the other end, we have the Capital's President Snow (Donald Sutherland), who continues to be as kindly and yet cold as his hair is white. He tells his people that Panem can only survive through cooperation while continuing to repress everyone and kill whomever he wants.

It's now clear that Panem does not exist on planet Earth -- or even a future Earth -- but in some parallel universe, otherwise I would expect some references to the U.S. Constitution, the Magna Carta, or at least the Declaration of Independence. We don't even get a token tricorn hat. Because it doesn't drag out history, it forces us to see the parallels in our own world through our own eyes.

Breaking this final part of the book trilogy into two parts makes sense once you see the end result on the screen. Hang on for the final part, but I'm betting this series still has enough gas for a few bonus episodes.

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