Monday, 22 December 2014

Franchise Fiasco: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, Liverpool 2.

Quick bit of admin, I'm currently in the month long process of moving house, so between now and January expect one article a week. And yes, in case you were wondering, moving ten years of junk from one place to another is exactly as tedious as you imagine. But in between that time I went to the smallest multiplex screen in existence to see the soon to-be-exiting cinemas Hunger Games: Mockingjay...Part 1. God I hate the part system sometimes.

All your favourite characters such as Woody Harrelson, Philip Seymour Hoffman and...??? are back!

So I'm fairly sure I've talked about the Hunger Games before on here, definitely in the podcasts, probably in article form I feel. I have a love hate relationships with these books and films. I was actually one of the first people to read the Hunger Games out of the collective hive mind that was upper secondary school. Not sure why, probably to impress a girl or something, assume the worst about past me. But considering everyone else was deep in the grips of Twilight back then, The Hunger Games has frequently managed to coast by, with myself included on the 'At least it isn't Twilight!" ticket. 

This is both a curse and a boon I suppose, being a 'better twilight' is hardly going to cement Suzanne Collins up there with Shakespeare, but equally it has made it almost immune to criticism in the Young Adult departments. A bit like if Joan of Arc had set fire to a village after saving France, they'd be annoyed, but ultimately still grateful because she isn't the blasted English. (I was just told by a nerd that Katniss Everdeen is often compared to Joan of Arc anyway...God dammit). 

Pictured: The only acceptable waifu. 

Looking at The Hunger Games away from Twilight however has always left me thinking two very uncomfortable things. Firstly is the inevitable Battle Royale comparison, and if Suzanne Collins is still claiming to have never heard of that franchise then I consider the notion laughable. The second is the weird libertarian vibe I get from the whole franchise, like I wouldn't be surprised if Collins wasn't a proponent of the other side of the Mormon coin, those damned large political bodies! The entire films have always amounted to a community of bow-armed hunter-gathers being exploited and eventually overthrowing a decadent power base that needs them to exist. 

The new Tea Party Sponsored Panem Revolutionary Slogan.

The Hunger Games film franchise has always excelled at the scenario of the common man rising against the military police state, and Mockingjay P1 rams that up to 11 with roughly 33% of the film being dishevelled workers pluckily fighting, dying, resisting and eulogising against the monolithic state. Equally the 'Capitol' becomes ever more depraved in this one, with tales of Roman like decadence involving young boys and girls, poison, torture, brainwashing and even more resource exploitation. I'm pretty sure even Ron Paul on his darkest drug benders doesn't envisage a government to be quite as despotic and overbearing as the Panem kabal comes across. Oh yeah, and they bomb a civilian annoy Katniss? Apparently. No wonder they are losing a war against Lumberjacks with logic like that.

This has always left the plot of Hunger Games feel slightly lacking to me, President Snow seems to roll an 'evil dice' for what his schemes are going to be this episode and any attempt made by the Capitol to argue for their way of doing things seems so hollow because of their blatant strawman villain status. Brainwashed Peeta and others talk of the need for the Capitol to stop humanity from being wiped out, but it is run by such an obvious group of sadists that any potentially interesting ideological discussion (and I firmly believe that could've existed in the Hunger Games) is basically mute. Katniss might as well look like this. 

Interesting fact, this isn't from the French Revolution of 1789, but the 1830 one, despite every piece of popular culture telling you otherwise.

So moving on from the dubious topic of ideology of the Franchise. Mockingjay Part 1 is much better than the half of a book it is based on. Many of the things described (such as aforementioned workers rebellion) work a lot better visually, and the music really helps in that regard. The acting is generally average to good. Jennifer Lawrence feels like the most potential wasted, but she is still making it work. Philip Seymour Hoffman I can't really comment on because I just felt immense sadness everytime he was on screen. Woody Harrelson is barely in it, and I can't really tell Finnick and Gale apart anymore so together they get a 'not bad!'. Again, Peeta, Snow and Effie are barely in it so they all get a "pretty good!" 

In fact, now I think about it, barely any of the established interesting characters are in this for very long. I left the cinema thinking that they hadn't distributed time very well, a disproportionate time is levelled upon Katniss trying to make her propaganda (which I refuse to call Propos) films. Earlier in the film we are told Woody Harrelson's character is 'drying out' somewhere in capitol territory, and then he appears to say about three lines to PSH and Katniss, disappearing for the rest of the film to appear just in crowd scenes. Similarly, less extreme cuts happen to Effie and Finnick.

Overall however, I left The Hunger Games: Mockingjay feeling kinda satisfied. It doesn't aim for a bullseye, but consequently it never misses either. There are some scenes, specifically the Dam and bombardment scenes that'll give you slight chills, but it is all aesthetic glory, something is definitely missing underneath.

Minus 1 to the film's final score for reminding me this is coming out, and is being eagerly awaited. 

I don't really have much more to say. I guess I'll watch Part 2, if I can pay half price for it like I did with this one. I really don't think this needed to be split in two, or at least, splitting it in two was a waste considering how they handled it, but yeah, I can probably squeeze one ticket out for the both, that might make it worth while...What a great endorsement that is.

Until next time. 

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