Thursday, November 27, 2014

"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay. Part 1": the trilogy divides and conquers Panem; a wonderful bird and cat

Thanksgiving Day, I journeyed (lightly) to the new ArcLight cinemas right near the intersection of I-495 and I-270, near Bethesda, MD  Getting there and parking and getting the ticket was easy on a holiday, with moderate crowds.  The theater has a café (a bit like Angelika) but with sit-down service.  I tried the salad, delicious, but the service was slow; the server didn’t seem to realize I had to get to the auditorium and it took 20 minutes to get the food on a not-so-crowded day,

The movie was “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1”.  It’s based on the third in the franchise by Suzanne Collins.  The financial success of her trilogy may have more to teach fiction authors than even the “Harry Potter” series.  At least “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings” (and “The Hobbit”) provide us with alternate universe worlds, conveying some notion of what future generations could find if they do make alien contact.  “Hunger Games” provides us with a totalitarian future after society as we know it has failed.  I think it’s more interesting to write about the “failure” process itself, and whether it can be reversed.  That’s what interests me in my own writing. But it seems easier to sell books with character-driven adventures in worlds totally separated from ours.  Collins does provide us with a convincing female heroine role model Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and the idea that even in an adverse culture one can find a way to shine.  That may be a message that a lot of young people like. But it gets involved into mandatory fitting in with the group, joining rebellions, and remaining loyalty to revolutionary leadership.
The third film was probably shot before Vladimir Putin’s latest misadventures (Part 2 will be Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last film, and so it had to be done before 2014 started).  Yet, the course of the film did remind me of both the violence in Ukraine, as well as Syria and Iraq (the latter with a scene where prisoners are hooded in black before being shot).  It’s not too much of a stretch to compare President Snow (Donald Sutherland) with Putin, although Snow is not buff and not exactly a family patriarch.
Of course, many have written that Panem should be compared to the Roman Empire, as if civilization reverted back to an old political format after its tribulations.  Collins herself says that the trilogy was first inspired by Greek mythology, where Theseus agrees to join the victims (rebels). 

The film opens with Katniss alone in a mysterious isolation room (my DADT screenplay will start out like this) before we learn she is in some kind of prison hospital where she meets up with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). Outside, District 12 has been destroyed (and the destruction is always around in the outdoor scenes, restricting the visual variety of the film).  Katniss adjusts to life underground in District 13, where she meets up with her sister Primrose (Willow Shields), who has managed to save her cantankerous cat, who become a supporting character in the movie.  This cat is huge and articulate (maybe a bobcat).  Sam Claffin  and Liam Hemsworth (who looks like Chris Pine) round out the young male companions, and Woody Harrelson is appropriately decrepit.
The rebels manage to blow up a dam at the movie midpoint, in a spectacular scene.  The lights go out in the Capitol.  Toward the end, we learn that Part 2 will apparently show the overthrow of Panem, a complete revolution.  Will it turn communist?

The mockingjay is a hybrid bird (pretty obvious) that becomes the trademark for these last two films.
The film was shown in the ArcLight’s widest auditorium (designed so that widescreen is the best aspect, not cropped). ArcLight advertises a process similar to RPX and Extended Digital, something not quite Imax but almost. 

The official site is here.  This franchise constitute's Lionsgate's main adventure in "big studio filmmaking", although it owns Summit, which handles the Twilight movies.  Lionsgate normally releases quasi-independent films largely produced overseas or especially by Canadian and Australian producers.  I'm hoping it will look at Clive Barker's "Imajica" but that would definitely be a big budget project (probably two films).  

I have to say that I’m not keen on franchises dividing their individual movies into Parts, but Harry Potter has already done it.  Yet this film is not quite at the level of “Darkly Hallows”.
Lionagate forgoes its orchestral trademark and lets the brooding music from the movie start immediately.  I think this is a mistake.  Show all the trademarks first with all their music, and then start the movie. 

Update: Dec, 11

Lionsgate has paired with CNN to release "Dinosaur 13".  There is a full review on my TV Blog Dec. 11, 2014.

Update:  Feb. 18, 2014

Bluehost tweeted a UK Telegraph article showing a video of all the deleted scenes, which give more character backstories, here

No comments: