“Mockingjay Part 1 reminds movie-goers that no matter how noble the cause and how pretty the words, war scars us all in some form or fashion.”
Release date (DVD/Blu-ray): March 6, 2015
Director: Francis Lawrence
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Julianne Moore, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Running time: 123 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13
We’re all victims to the power of polished advertising. Whether it be from being inundated by commercials from the clothing and beauty industry pushing the idea of perfection they’re advocating in the name of sales to the network spots reminding us how empty our lives will be if we don’t watch a specific piece of Must See TV, advertising pulls at even those of us who have the strongest of wills. On the other side of that coin is propaganda, which does a similar job at convincing the people of the efficacy of and the justness of war, using similar tactics as those seen in advertising. Appealing to emotion and images and ideals of nation and love of country are sometimes used to stir the hearts and minds of the people.
Director Francis Lawrence seems to know this and didn’t shy away from the prevalent use of propaganda seen in the third installment of The Hunger Games book trilogy. In Mockingjay – Part 1, on DVD and Blu-ray today, Katniss Everdeen, played once again by Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook), has been extracted from the Hunger Games following the events of Catching Fire, with the long-hidden District 13’s President Coin (Julianne Moore) and former games’ master Plutarch (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) hoping to use the Girl on Fire as the face of the resistance against the oppressive Capitol, led by Donald Sutherland’s President Snow. Katniss agrees, but only if Coin promises to rescue Peeta, fellow Hunger Games contender and captive of Snow, who’s using Peeta as his own propaganda mouthpiece.
While Mockingjay does a very good job at showing Katniss’ rise from reluctant symbol to revolutionary warrior, the real star of the film is the approach that director Lawrence takes at juxtaposing the sleek use of the propaganda that both sides are using with the real costs of the horrors of war. President Coin and Plutarch, and their opposite number in President Snow, all know that wars are won in large part through stirring the souls of the citizenry, using imagery and trumped-up rhetoric to convince the people of a cause’s rightness. This is in stark contrast to what war actually costs, both in moral compromise and lives lost. Katniss only agrees to become the Mockingjay of the resistance after seeing the breadth and depth of the skeletons left over after Snow’s assault on her home of District 12. While she wants to topple Snow’s reign on an abstract level, but it is only after the cost of war becomes more personal to her that she’s willing to be used as a symbol by Coin and Plutarch.
It’s pretty bold of both Suzanne Collins, the author of the series, and director Lawrence to not shy away from these topics, which are pretty heady matters for a trilogy aimed at young adults. While that might sound patronizing, it’s actually high praise, especially how so-called mature films and books don’t always tackle those matters in a way that has any weight, let alone in the expert, clear and cutting way as seen in Mockingjay. With how we present ourselves on social media becoming more and more important, it’s clear that our already image-obsessed culture is eating itself like some kind of painted ouroboros, and hopefully it’s an idea that readers and viewers of all ages will pick up on and think about after watching the film.
While the some members of the cast are used more than others, director Lawrence allow every one of them to have their moment in the sun. Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) is able to bring weight to the role of propaganda director Cressida, being a necessary hardass on Katniss to get her to emote the way she needs to in order to rally the viewers. While we don’t get to see Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta much except for his interviews at the Capitol, imploring Katniss and the rebels to stop their seditious activities, when he does appear on screen, his beaten-down demeanor is haunting and I found myself as troubled by his rote declarations as Snow’s puppet as Katniss did. The film even manages to give an emotional arc to Elizabeth Banks’ Effie Trinket, who has learned to adjust to life in District 13 stripped of her pomp and circumstance and over-the-top wardrobes.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 leaves viewers wrecked by the film’s conclusion, which is good preparation for what awaits fans in the final chapter of the film series’ adaptations of the book source material. The film reminds movie-goers that no matter how noble the cause and how pretty the words, war scars us all in some form or fashion.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD.