Image By Murray Close/Lionsgate
The moment when one fully grasps the concept of rhetoric is a startling and powerful one, especially if that understanding is paired with the realization that in politics, rhetoric is employed with equal effectiveness and tact by both history’s heroes and its villains. That moment comes, if I am remembering correctly, sometime in high school, which is why Mockingjay, the third of four film adaptations of the Hunger Games YA series, is both an important film and a bore: It’s a teenager’s guide to propaganda and revolution, but for those who are familiar with these narratives, its lesson feels heavy-handed, like a fictional—but not exactly literary—application written specifically for a history book.
That being said, the intricate inner workings of an army of “rebels” (a label dictator President Snow thoughtfully bestows upon them in one of his articulate fear-mongering speeches to Panem) pleasantly distracts from the worst love triangle in contemporary film. Yes, the chemistry absent between Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, as well as that between Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth, is less convincing than what was mustered up by the Twilight tragedians. At least, even while hating on Bella-Edward-Jacob, you felt compelled to route for one of the chumps, whereas with Katniss-Peeta-Gale we wish it would go away so that Katniss would get her head in the game—or decidedly out of the game. (Note: As a whole, Mockingjay flies above the Vamp-fest.)
The love birds aren’t the only ones who deliver lackluster performances; there is almost nothing to be said, unfortunately, about one of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final performances, Donald Sutherland is predictably evil, and Natalie Dormer (of “Game of Thrones”) is more distracting than anything due to someone’s poor decision to shave half her head, braid a remaining lock, and tattoo her skull in order to make her look “artsy.” But Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson, as is true with the first two, are collectively delightful (and underused), and Julianne Moore is surprisingly apt in her role as the rebels’ leader. Sure, once in a while, Lawrence’s talent peeks through—her intensity saves one scene, in which she is awkwardly asked to sing and obliges, from turning into a cheese-fest (please don’t read this as an album endorsement).
But because the Hunger Games trilogy boils down to a who-will-she-choose tale, any kernels of promise are left unpopped. The Capitol, having kidnapped Peeta after Katniss wreaked havoc on the last Hunger Games, uses him as a puppet to manipulate (inspire) the districts to put their arms down. And the militaristic District 13 (long believed to be extinct) plucks the hesitant heroin to be their Mockingjay—in the hopes the districts will parrot her passion, anger, and tenacity—in order to inspire (manipulate) a revolt. Both sides have professional camera crews, costumers, makeup artists, writers, tech geeks, iron-fisted leaders and a team of consultants to coach their chosen victor into winning over the populous … and an abrupt stop for a part two.
In its awkward role as the first part of the final chapter, Mockingjay labors at dividing its time between romance and revolution, missing an opportunity, in its modernity, to provide interesting commentary on how, paired with art and iconography, technology can be weaponized for either side of a battle.
THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY | PG-13 | IN THEATERS FRI 11.22