The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 1 (2014)
November 19, 2014 6:59 AM - Subscribe

This is the first of two cinematic parts based on the novel Mockingjay, the final book in The Hunger Games trilogy, written by Suzanne Collins, and the third installment in The Hunger Games film series. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland.
posted by Pendragon (17 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I liked this movie just okay. It was pretty slow for about the first half hour, and I'm not convinced the third book needed to be split into 2 separate movies yet. Some of the best and most interesting parts of the first two movies center around world building and the introduction of new characters. Not too much new stuff for either of those categories in this one, so it felt a little stale at times.

It was very difficult for me to see Philip Seymour Hoffman onscreen again. He really was one of the all time greatest actors.
posted by dogwalker at 2:33 AM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Without being too spoilery I will just say that was the most intense and realistic depiction of a near-fatal strangling and its aftermath I've ever seen.
posted by wabbittwax at 3:00 PM on November 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have not read the books and didn't particularly enjoy the first two movies, but I have somewhat complicated feelings about the new one. I wasn't expecting it to be so real and it's hard to watch without thinking of what's going on in Syria.

I'm not sure where the movie is going, politically, but now I definitely want to see how it resolves everything. It seems like right now it's an objectively pro-terrorism storyline, but that just can't be where the movie ends up.
posted by empath at 12:39 PM on November 23, 2014

Mockingjay was a grim book, but I don't think I was quite prepared for how difficult it would be to see that grimness on screen. Seeing the firebombed District 12, complete with burned bodies...this franchise does not pull its punches, which I think is part of what distinguishes it from the glut of other YA dystopian movies.

The other thing that makes The Hunger Games stand out is the quality of the acting. Jennifer Lawrence absolutely carries this franchise, and she was just as good here as she was in the previous two. And I was so happy that Phillip Seymour Hoffman brought such nuance to a character who very easily could have been a flat vehicle for exposition. I'm thinking especially of that scene where he's talking to President Coin while District 13 is under attack, and you could see that this is the moment where the war has become real to him, the moment when he realizes this isn't just another game he's orchestrating. There's fear there, but also a wry self-awareness. And Josh Hutcherson was pretty good in his limited screen time in this movie too. It was genuinely disturbing seeing him look worse and worse, and more and more terrified in each progressive video from the Capitol.

Also, I feel like revolution/rebellion is a plot point in a lot of YA series, but that The Hunger Games series is one of the only ones that looks at the costs and compromises of revolution in a clear-eyed, brutal way. Mockingjay Part 1 showed that in its depictions of the Districts' acts of rebellion/terrorism, where dozens of people are gunned down and every move against the Capitol has the potential to become a suicide run. I definitely felt chills at the repetition of "If we burn, you burn with us!" and the use of The Hanging Tree song, both of which are pretty damned grim calls to arms.
posted by yasaman at 2:14 PM on November 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

I liked this movie a lot more than I expected. I almost didn't go see it because I thought of where the middle of the last book was and decided I didn't want to slit my wrists right before Thanksgiving.

That said, I thought they did a great job with the Peeta scenes. It seems like they (and Collins) don't shy away from any of the awkwardness that realistically come from being caught up in intense situations. For instance, the awkward scenes between Gale and Katniss- could have been just left out altogether, but I'm really glad they weren't.

I know it's been throughout, but I REALLY enjoy seeing the role that image manipulation plays in these movies. It seems like in most books only the "bad" guys try to manage their image. In these books, everyone does it- it's one more tool in the fight. (I wish I had gotten that message when I was a kid- I was taught that even matching your socks was borderline sinful vanity and just one step away from deceiving people. Or something. It was a little garbled.)

That whole bit where they try to film a commercial with Katniss with the fake flag in front of the green screen was great. And how did Haymitch get so good at this stuff, being drunk off his ass for the last 15 years?

And the shaved-head media woman (too lazy to look up her name) - always on the lookout for good footage. (of course, she was from the capital, right? So she grew up with the "image is everything" outlook on life.)

Effie Trinket was awesome as always, and Jennifer Lawrence is so good that I just take her for granted. She's a very good actress.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:36 PM on November 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

I'm really surprised there hasn't been more discussion here yet!

I'm extremely glad they split the final book into two movies. Of course, doing so makes this installment a bit of a drag. But it's important. This is a movie about Katniss rebuilding herself, learning how to interact with others and cope with her surroundings, after a truly traumatic event. She was able to avoid doing this hard work after the first hunger games, I think, because she was still in denial. That's why it's so important, towards the beginning of the second movie, for Haymitch to explain that she never gets to stop: in her mind, she'd been thinking, "I'm all messed up, but I'll be okay once the tour is over, once everything calms down. I'm not right, right now, but I will be, yep, I will be." And, at the point where she was just starting to break through the denial and realize just how broken she was, the second hunger games started up. She was forced into it all over again. The wounds broke open, got deeper than she previously imagined possible. We start this third movie, here, with a total shell of a person. There's no source for denial, anymore, there's no way of getting around it: she is traumatized and suffering and broken.

This is one of the things that I like the most about The Hunger Games series: it takes trauma seriously. There are so many movies, books, etc., that don't. The hero will go through some life shattering event and come out the other side without any scars. The movie ends as soon as the immediate danger is over, and you're supposed to imagine that everything is Happy Ever After. You imagine the hero going back home, getting a good night's sleep, waking up the next morning to a great stack of pancakes, and smiling with the great contentment of an adventure completed. Bullshit. Real human beings can't do that. Any hero capable of just shrugging off the trauma that comes from being central to an adventure movie is plastic, just plastic. There's no brain, no real psychology, behind that sort of character.

The Hunger Games doesn't allow us such milquetoast psychological plasticity. The Hunger Games takes seriously the psychological frailty that is the human condition, it takes seriously the gravity of the events described. In The Hunger Games, the things that happen to the characters actually happen to them.

But you can't portray that aspect of trauma without it taking a lot of time. You can't show depression, anxiety, PTSD, and whatever-else-Katniss-suffers as a montage. You have to feel it. The camera has to linger on it. And that's what they do this entire movie: the entire movie lingers on Katniss's suffering, to show how it's real. They wouldn't have time to do that, had they made the final book into a single movie. They would have had to skip over the parts that define Katniss's nature as a psychological being. The emotional resonance, the depth, would be lost.

So, yeah, there's a sense in which this movie isn't enjoyable. It doesn't have much of a plot arch. It's all build up to the next movie. But it is important that we have an entire movie of that build-up. It is vital, for Katniss's emotional complexity, for the way the next movie will feel. Once the final movie has come out, this movie will be a lot better -- this is a movie that only makes sense contextually, surrounded as it should be by the 2nd and 4th. And that's exactly what it should be, what it has to be, for Katniss's story to be told.

I commend the movie makers for how they set up this movie. Their decision to structure this movie as they have shows that they take seriously the fact that Katniss is a person, a psychological being, rather than an action figure.
posted by meese at 10:03 AM on November 26, 2014 [9 favorites]

Katniss is a person, ... rather than an action figure.

Well put. That's something I love about it, too. And she's not even very likeable, which I think is great. She's prickly and self-absorbed- the same as so many of us were at that age.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:19 AM on November 26, 2014

Not all systems can be broken, Genevieve Valentine
But of course, we also take from The Hunger Games what’s been very deliberately brought to it. A “third space” between the production and the product offers a similar narrative shift to the dramatic refocusing that the books received when they moved from the first person of the novels to the inevitable third person of the camera lens. Filmwise, this works as both a distancing and a leveling tactic: Katniss’ inner monologue vanishes, and she competes in the frame for audience sympathy alongside everyone else. When Katniss sees the devastation in District 8, the focus on her grief over the grief of District 8’s leaders seems odd on the camera’s more even playing field, despite making sense in the novel—a sly condemnation, perhaps, of the rebellion’s focus on Katniss herself. The flip side is the camera’s ability to construct a story out of things far from Katniss in every sense. Mockingjay’s centerpiece scene is “The Hanging Tree,” which Katniss sings for a small audience. It becomes a propaganda video, and finally, chillingly, an anthem for District revolutionaries marching to a fatal confrontation with the Capitol. Her image is moved beyond her control: a parallel between the Capitol and District 13, and a concept that makes the jump intact from the screen to the making-of.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:28 AM on November 26, 2014

It was sad to see Phillip Seymour Hoffman knowing he won't be in the next film unless they do some clever CGI (or they've already filmed both movies).

I liked it but it sure was dreary. I guess most of the film's budget went to Jennifer Lawrence's salary because it sure wasn't on the screen. And Part 2 better end up with Effie back in her regular clothes, makeup, and wigs because...yikes her appearance in this one was jarring to me.
posted by fuse theorem at 3:13 PM on December 3, 2014

Reports are that most of the filming was complete by the time of Hoffman's death. Some scenes had to be re-written to involve other characters, but he's in the movie.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:25 PM on December 6, 2014

So I finally watched this tonight. Holy grim. I think they had Snow tip his hand (as in, acting monster raving loony) a tad too quickly in the conversation with Katniss, but apart from that and a couple other minor things (the timing during the lockdown in 13 grated on me), very well done.

Also, Gale proved what I posited in the last thread about HG; D12 only had 10 000 people. Even positing that richer Districts might be more populous, there's no way the Districts can possibly support Panem/the Capitol.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:10 PM on March 8, 2015

I know it's been throughout, but I REALLY enjoy seeing the role that image manipulation plays in these movies. It seems like in most books only the "bad" guys try to manage their image. In these books, everyone does it- it's one more tool in the fight.

I totally agree. One of the things that made the first movie work so well is that every moment that could have been sappy and saccharine is tempered by everyone's awareness of the cameras. Peeta's confession of his feelings for Katniss, for instance, seems genuine, but you know he's only saying it (or only saying it now, or only saying it in this sappy way) because he's playing for the camera.

Katniss claims she's terrible at making people like her, but everything she does wins people over. Her mourning for Rue is completely genuine, but also seems like solid gold for winning sponsors over to her side.

Similarly in this movie, one of my favorite bits is how they set up Katniss's reaction to the bombing of the hospital. Her impromptu speech is so compelling and her outrage seems so genuine, but part of you is thinking, "Yeah, that's the stuff. That's the kind of propaganda the rebellion needs." Which made more aware than usual of the craft involved in the movie itself pushing my buttons.
posted by straight at 3:21 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I just watched the first three of these over the weekend (my second time for #1&2, first for this one).

I was really fascinated at how she's just as much an image tool of the rebels as Snow wanted her to be for him. I think it's great they have that idea in there complicating things instead of just straight up good guys/bad guys. I have not read the books (and doubt I will), so I don't know what's coming in part 2 but something about this made me think of The Matrix sequels where being "The One" turns to be "just another system of control." Like, ok, so the rebels win and bring down Snow, but what replaces him? The inequality of the districts is bad and unsustainable, sure, but the series doesn't feel to me like it's heading for a utopian ending of "they brought down the government and everyone lived happily ever after." But I don't feel like we've been shown anyone's real vision for what happens after the revolution.
posted by dnash at 7:39 AM on November 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Watched this again preparing for the new movie. I was really impressed with Hutcherson's performance. His Peeta still has that same telegenic, devious, charming sincerity that dropped the, "...if it weren't for the baby," bomb during the interview in the second movie. But there's also something slightly but increasingly off that makes it clear he's under duress. One thing that's effective is that the movie never puts his videos on full screen. He's always seen on a screen, from the POV of the characters watching.

It's such a gut-punch that right after Katniss delivers that first perfect bit of propaganda, Peeta comes back with a plea for peace that's almost as good and seems equally sincere.

(I was glad to see them follow through at the hospital with that reminder that But She's Pregnant! was part of the Katniss mythos and how casually she turns it into She Lost Her Baby!)

I also realized when she heads into the field for the first time to meet real soldiers in her Mockingbird costume that Katniss is totally Captain America.
posted by straight at 9:59 AM on November 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

dnash-- are you SURE you haven't read the books?

posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:21 AM on November 23, 2015

I also realized when she heads into the field for the first time to meet real soldiers in her Mockingbird costume that Katniss is totally Captain America.

And just like Captain America, she has a brainwashed BF(F)! (....I really have a type when it comes to my favorite fictional pairings.)
posted by yasaman at 11:26 AM on November 23, 2015

dnash-- are you SURE you haven't read the books?

Quite sure. Now hush up! I'll try to get to the last movie this week. ;)
posted by dnash at 12:35 PM on November 23, 2015

« Older Sons of Anarchy: Suits of Woe...   |  Mad Men: Chinese Wall... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments