Friday, December 19, 2014

14 Thoughts and Reactions to Mockingjay Part 1

Mockingjay was one of the most highly-anticipated movies of 2014, if not the most.  Since I'm still not 100% over Catching Fire, I had high expectations.  I was also wary, since, well...part one.  Unfortunately, this aspect drags it down.  Still, there are so many good things happening at the same time.  Here are 14 thoughts:

I'm assuming you've read Mockingjay already.  If not, there are spoilers in numbers 2, 8, and 9.
  1. Alternate titles: The Hunger Games: Fillerjay, The Hunger Games: The Musical, The Hunger Games: If I Close My Eyes Maybe I Can Pretend We Won't Have to Watch Everyone Die in Part 2
  2. SOMEONE SAVE FINNICK ODAIR.  Even at the very beginning, he looks dead inside.  I don't know how Sam Claflin pulled it off, but his eyes have an awful haunted look.  I'm already worried enough about how I'm going to get over his death in Part 2--I don't need to deal with these feelings already.  It's too soon.  JUST LET HIM BE OKAY. 
  3. Also Peeta, but that's been done.  Peeta also is in need of saving, but at least much of the movie's plot focuses on this.  Still, Peeta's appearance at the end of the movie is hard to watch. I commend the director for this.  It been so easy to gloss over certain difficult elements of Mockingjay: main characters being tortured, Finnick's past (more on this later), genocide, and so on.  They didn't shy away from it, though.  If anything, the movies embrace the darkness and grit of the novels.
  4. It's nice to have a movie that actually passes the Bechdel test.  The Bechdel test is by no means an indicator that a movie features realistic female characters, or that it represents both genders equally.  Still, it's a start.  I've started to pay close attention to the portrayal (or, in many cases, the lack thereof) of female characters in movies.  Sci-fi and fantasy movies are still male-dominated, and the more I see of this, the more frustrated I get.*  Women make up half the world's population, but nowhere near half the population of many movies.  "But people don't watch female-led action movies!" critics cry in the distance.  Excuse you.  Mockingjay's box office numbers beg to differ.  Mockingjay passes the Bechdel test in an unfussy way.  There are female characters of all types.  There are also male characters of all types.  It's 2014; why is this still noteworthy?
  5. I liked Natalie Dormer's performance more than I expected.  I haven't seen much of Natalie Dormer's work, but for some reason, I was skeptical of her role in this.  I shouln't have worried.  Natalie Dormer just keeps proving herself over and over.  Her portrayal of Cressida is intense, interesting, and fabulous.  She brings complexity to the character--I don't remember Cressida much from the books, but I'll definitely remember her from this movie.
  6. It shows how little Katniss cares about the revolution itself.  That's what I love about this series.  Katniss doesn't truly care about the noble ideas of the revolution.  She doesn't really care about taking down the system.  She just wants the people she loves to be safe, and she'll do whatever she must in order to make this happen.  She may be motivated by strong feelings of love, but she goes about it in a calculated way.  Mockingjay shows this well.  Every time Katniss is faced with a choice, she makes it not about her or the revolution, but about her family or Peeta.  It makes the story so much more personal.  
    You tell 'em, Katniss.
  7. It suffers from being part one of two.  In this regard, it's much like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.  It's much slower than the previous movies.  People travel places and have significant conversations, but very little is actually happening.  The whole movie feels like it's building to something big, but you don't get the payoff until Part 2.  This is problematic.  Even if a movie is part of a series, it still should have its own complete story arc.  Mockingjay just doesn't have that.
  8. The bombing of District 13 has some brilliant moments.  At around the three-quarter mark of the movie, the Capitol bombs District 13's underground bunker.  Everyone has to move into the bomb shelters in a matter of minutes.  It's a chaotic mess, and it's a particularly intense scene.  It adds an element of fear to it along with the element of suspense much of the rest of the movie lacks.  The best part, though, is how well it showcases Katniss' personality.  As soon as she realizes Prim didn't make it into the shelter, there's absolutely no question what the big sister must do--make sure the little sister is safe--even if Katniss herself won't make it out alive.  She'd rather die trying to save Prim than live without her.
  9. I don't like how this movie shows Finnick's backstory.  It's shown on a screen, but other things happen simultaneously.  You can't devote your full attention to it.  This is one of the most important revelations in the entire series, and they lessened its impact.  No.  Don't just have his story of "I was forced into prostitution as a teenager" in the background.  The audience needs to be able to focus on this, since it exposes an even darker side of the Capitol culture surrounding the games.
  10. This movie portrays the media as scarily powerful.  It's true.  This series is known for its social commentary, and in this aspect, Mockingjay no different.  District 13 uses their video broadcasts strategically in order to prompt rebellion.  There's no direct contact--it's all media.  And it works.  It's important to remind viewers (especially right now) how much power media can have, whether that power is wielded for good or otherwise. 
  11. Can we stop the one book-two movies thing?  I keep writing about this in my movie reviews.  I don't know what I can say that hasn't already been said, but it's important enough to deserve another mention.
  12. Can we also stop teasing the Gale relationship?  Why does Katniss kiss Gale in this movie?  By this point in the books, it's apparent that Katniss is romantically interested in Peeta, if anyone at all.  I understand that movies and books are different formats, and as such, the storylines have to differ.  But playing up hardly existent romance just for the sake of adding romance is unnecessary.
  13. The shaky camera is back.  I don't remember seeing as many shaky camera shots in Catching Fire as in The Hurnger Games, but Mockingjay has a few rough moments.  
  14. It didn't have the same emotional impact as Catching Fire.  I remember feeling emotionally drained after Catching Fire.  I felt a little of this from Mockingjay, but nowhere near as much.  It's probably due to the fact that this movie is part one.  Part 2 is going to hurt.  We should start preparing ourselves right now.

Is it good overall?  Yes.  Did it need to have two parts?  Absolutely not.  Going in, I thought this split made sense, but after actually seeing it, I realize that it just made the structure weaker.  Other aspects, though, still worked as well as they did in Catching Fire, especially with Jennifer Lawrence's talent to lead the way.  My feelings are still mixed about these movies, as a whole.  Hopefully Mockingjay Part 2 will change this.

Did you see Mockingjay Part 1?  What did you think?

*We also have to stop with this "strong female character" trope.  Why do we have to keep giving female characters traditionally "masculine" traits (fighting ability, dislikes dresses, hides emotions, etc.) in order to make them "strong"?  I don't want strong female characters--I want realistic female characters.  Some women are like this trope.  Some aren't.  Hollywood recognizes that males have this range, so why not females?

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