Film No 12 (2015) : The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 1

mocking 1The end of the second Hunger Games movie (Catching Fire) was full of suspense; Katniss Everdeen, having survived the Games, uses a flash of lightning and a well-timed arrow to destroy the Games arena. She is taken to District 13, leaving behind fellow Tributes Peeta and Annie. So far, so exciting. What is going to happen to them all?

In Mockingjay Part 1, Katniss and her family are being sheltered in District 13. There, President Coin persuades the young markswoman to become the face of an uprising to unseat the Capitol and its leader, President Snow. Katniss agrees, on condition that Peeta and Annie are rescued as soon as possible. Peeta is used in propaganda films and it is obvious that he is being mistreated in some way. Nevertheless, he manages to forewarn District 13 that it is about to be attacked by the Capitol, allowing 13’s inhabitants to seek shelter. Following the attack, Peeta and Annie are liberated from the clutches of President Snow. Katniss’ joy at being reunited with Peeta is shortlived once it becomes apparent that he has been poisoned into believing that he must kill her. The film ends with Peeta seen thrashing around in a fury, having been restrained in a hospital room.

Sorry to be so unreservedly negative, but this film is boring (I tried to think of a more apposite adjective, but was too bored to bother) and drawn-out, with unconvincing acting; Liam Hemsworth as Gale is about as inspiring as an ironing board and Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss) is only marginally better. There are endless scenes of Coin addressing massed crowds of supporters, resulting in saluting and chanting.

The films are based upon the YA novels by Suzanne Collins and have a devoted fan base. This film was the 5th highest grossing movie of 2014, earning $752,100,229 worldwide. The books are a trilogy but in increasingly typical fashion (The Hobbit, Harry Potter), one book has been spilt into more than one film. Call me cynical, but my instinct tells me that this is purely a ruse to wring as much cash out of moviegoers as possible. Because there is simply not enough material in this film to make it exciting. Mockingjay Part 2 is released in November 2015 but I won’t be rushing to see it; my appetite for the Hunger Games disappeared with this bland fare.

Film No 43 (2014) : The Hunger Games – Catching Fire

Hunger Games 2Having been selected at the annual Reaping as the Tribute to compete for District 12 in the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) came through her first Games. ‘Catching Fire‘ is the second Hunger Games movie and begins with Katniss and her fellow survivor Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), taking part in a Victory Tour of the Districts. Katniss has a part to play but she won’t abide by the rules; she deviates from the prepared scripts and planned appearances, revealing a rebellious streak which soon makes her a symbol of hope for the repressed people of the Districts. As a threat to the Capitol, she must be eliminated in the next Games, the 75th. But Katniss has allies, both within the arena of the Games and beyond. Can her compatriots ensure her survival?

This is a full-on action movie, with thrilling, unexpected plot twists and futuristic special effects. The Tributes crashing through the rainforest to escape an encroaching cloud of poisonous gas, which gains on them with every panicked stride, is the stuff of my nightmares. Vicious mandrills, dehydration and electric shocks all conspire to defeat the young warriors, but from my seat in the living room, I was rooting for Katniss and Peeta at every turn.

There is something at the heart of this dystopian story which terrifies me; the possibility of it all, world politics and corrupt power coupled with money and weapons, dividing us all into factions, haves and have nots. One part of me knows it’s a story, but if I were to believe at least some of what is written and reported from militarized societies in the world today, Suzanne Collins and her imaginative ilk may be more prophetic than we care to acknowledge. Best not to think too deeply, just enjoy the movie!

(Whilst the books form a trilogy, the final instalment has been divided into two films. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 was released on 20 November 2014  in the UK and is still showing in some cinemas.)

 

Film No 27 (2014) : The Hunger Games

Hunger GamesOne-to-one time with a teenage son is a rare opportunity, so I jumped at his suggestion that we watch the first ‘Hunger Games’ film on Netflix. I’ve read the book (by Suzanne Collins) so knew the story.

In a nutshell, 24 young people are set against each other in a battle of survival. The Hunger Games are played out in an outdoor, enclosed arena, which covers woodland, rivers and open spaces. The Games are televised for the entertainment of the outside world; the competitors (known as Tributes) can attract sponsors who send in essential equipment and aids, such as medicine. The action centres upon Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to take part in the Games in place of her sister. There can only be one winner of the Games. The winner is the one who is left once all the others have been eliminated. By death.

I’m sure the ‘Hunger Games’ intended audience is probably teenagers, (it’s rated 12A in the UK) but I was totally transfixed all the way through. Jennifer Lawrence is a wonderfully expressive Katniss, displaying both immense bravery, empathy and vulnerability. Her reluctance to ‘play the game’ to try to endear her to the audience, adds to her strength of character as a young woman guided by a strong moral compass.

But for me the appeal of the film was not just about what was on the screen, it was the whole examination of modern day life. The viewers are obsessed with physical attractiveness, appearances are carefully controlled by the programme makers who manipulate both the screenings of the Hunger Games as well as the competition arena. Young people trying to eliminate one another, watched by millions who are glued to their screens, choose their favourites, take bets – isn’t that what ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me out of Here!’, ‘Big Brother’ and countless other reality TV shows are all about? Scary as it may seem, a real Hunger Games really doesn’t feel all that far removed from where we are now.