A Review of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
With the third in its four-course meal of The Hunger Games, Lionsgate presents the perfect accompaniment to the finale. Between these two brilliantly designed bookends, viewers can feast on a variety of riches – but first, they seem to imply, let’s finish our vegetables. Certainly, Part 1 may appear a bit like a diffident and difficult appetizer to the cataclysmic events that follow in the meatier second half.
However, the bones of Suzanne Collins’ brilliant novel are fleshed out in full with this Part 1 of Mockingjay, an offering that demands our attention and understanding. We have cheered Katniss on both in and out of the arena, whirling in couture defiance, surviving inhumane contests, and, finally, triumphing by her very humanity. Now she faces her greatest foe: a wounded, damaged version of herself. Not fully recovered from her first Hunger Games, she was forced into the 75th Quarter Quell. Those allegiances and choices were exponentially more complex and resulted in physical and mental havoc. For Katniss, the Quell has ended, but the issues are unresolved.
Unmoored from her District 12 bearings of hearth and home (however once-meager), she now finds herself a stranger in a strange land. Adrift in a gray sea of uniform rebellion, she finds herself unable to grasp the savior mantle thrust upon her. Struggling with PTSD, she cannot reconcile reality with the gloss demanded of propos. Her struggle is made all the more impossible for her because everyone else seems to know her and want her in a role she cannot bear to acknowledge, much less, embody. District 13 is a kind of mirror to her tormented mind: unrelenting expectations in unfamiliar circumstances.
But with Mockingjay Part 1, our vision, like Katniss’ own view, is forcibly expanded to other districts, other realities. And when that happens, we understand, as Katniss does, that she is the Mockingjay – destined to lead and destined to persevere. Equally important, throughout this process we continue to see Katniss’ world through her own eyes. Nothing could be more vital for this franchise than to know why Katniss is the heart of the rebellion – ever when she herself does not know it. In Part 1, we realize that she can contribute to the revolution with her head and her heart. Katniss has never counted the cost to herself – she is not about to start now. Instead, knowing that all could be lost, she seeks to save Peeta. And, while that outcome of that rescue is unexpected and heartbreaking, do we really think she would have not wanted him saved?
Katniss’ choices have always been difficult – increasingly so, in fact. With Part 1, the ante has been driven up beyond what Katniss ever imagined. But her strength lies in her courage and caring – she won’t shy away from those she has loved, no matter what the cost. How can we not champion that? How can we not march by her side? Part II cannot come fast enough.