THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKING JAY Part 1

3 Stars – Powerful

The strength of The Hunger Games rests not only in its excellence in story telling but also in its political and social commentary.  Recognizing that history is resplendent with examples of governments that fence, red-line, or marginalize various groups, races or religions, this sci-fi film exposes the experience of being victimized by such oppression.  Written by Suzanne Collins and brought to the screen by director Francis Lawrence, this third film in the series continues the same high standards set by the other films.  As “Part 1”, it takes the final novel of the Hunger Games trilogy and divides it at a natural break in the conclusion of the story.

The engaging Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) wakes to find herself in the care of District 13, the hidden rebel base fighting the Capitol.  Having destroyed the government’s dome over the forest where tributes fight to the death in order to provide food for their own district, Katniss has become the symbol for the resistance.  Realizing she could be used to bring all 13 of the districts together, Rebel-President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and her advisor Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) set out to convince her to do so.

Complicating their attempt is the fact that Katniss’ beloved Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) is under the control of the cruel President Snow (Donald Sutherland).  Setting Katniss and Peeta against one another in the Capitol’s government-controlled and District 13’s rebel-pirated television waves, each side has its own champion.  How this struggle is played out on- and off-camera is the focus of this chapter of the tale.

The familiar characters in the story include the handsome Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) whose love for Katniss is now conflicted with the undefined though deeply bonded relationship she has with Peeta.  Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) and Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) are still working to coach and dress Katniss for public approval, while her beloved sister Primrose continues to need her protective care.

The universal desire for freedom and justice is a clarion call heard most clearly where oppressive regimes exist.  The question The Hunger Games explores is: how do we achieve both freedom and justice?  As the story increasingly shows that the rebel forces have similar objectives as the oppressive government they are fighting, the issues and even the language can be confusing.  It is this struggle that makes The Hunger Games powerful at several levels.

Discussion for those who have seen the film:

  1. With the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, the series will need to find a solution as to how to present his character in the next film.  What would you do: recast the character or remove the character from the story?
  2. The cruelty of President Snow is shown as a calculated violence.  Do you believe this type of violence is the tool or the driving force of oppressive governments?  Why do you answer as you do?
  3. By the time we come to the next and final film, we will discover the solution Collins suggests.  What do you think the solution should be? 
  4. How do you think the love triangle will be resolved between Peeta, Katniss and Gale?  Who do you believe that Katniss will end up with – or will she be alone?  Why do you think so?  Who would you choose?  Why?

Posted on November 26, 2014 and filed under 3 STARS, POWERFUL.