Hungry for more ‘Hunger Games’

Jeanette Cibelli

On Nov. 21, the third installment of “The Hunger Games” franchise, “Mockingjay, Part 1,” soared into theaters without much fanfare. Movie trailers were not heavily featured on television, and the ad campaign featuring propaganda-like posters was coolly understated, offering only a subtle reminder of the film’s release date. However, the film adaptations of Suzanne Collins’ series have always been popular, and “Catching Fire” dominated the 2013 pre-Thanksgiving weekend in theaters, so perhaps fanfare was not necessary.

Currently, the film has grossed more than $480 million worldwide, according to USA Today. Forbes reports that “Mockingjay, Part 1” was not as successful as previous the “Hunger Games” films in their respective opening weekends. “Mockingjay Part 1” earned $121 million as opposed to “Catching Fire,” which earned $154 million last year and “The Hunger Games,” which earned $152 million in 2012. Still, “Mockingjay” easily enjoyed the most successful opening weekend of all films released in 2014.

The film begins where “Catching Fire” left off – after the conclusion of dystopian nation Panem’s 75th annual Hunger Games competition. As heroine Katniss Everdeen and her sometimes-lover/sometimes-friend Peeta Mellark fought to survive, a rebellious plot to corrode the dictator-like power of the Capitol and villainous President Snow was underway. “Catching Fire” ends with the revelations that the Capitol has captured Peeta and destroyed Katniss’s home, District 12. Viewers learn Katniss will now live in District 13, a rebel district that had secretly regrown in the wake of its obliteration by the Capitol. “Mockingjay, Part 1” is completely dedicated to the revolution of Panem, as “Mockingjay, Part 2” will be.

The inherent problem with any story divided into two parts is that much of the action will occur in “Part 2,” after “Part 1” has set up the foundation for that action. “Mockingjay” is no exception. At some points, the film feels frustratingly slow as it explains the nitty-gritty details of the rebellion. For example, difficulties with communication between districts and the use of technology are extensively discussed. However, “Mockingjay, Part 1” is not without action-packed moments. Katniss’s exploration of a war-torn District 8 stands out as a memorable, chilling scene.

Ironically, some of the best scenes in the film were not explicitly described in Suzanne Collins’ book. The novel’s depiction of the revolution is solely from Katniss’s perspective, but the film features rebellious action that Katniss is not directly involved in. Whereas the other districts’ anger with the Capitol is only implied in the book, that anger is manifested in several vivid acts of rebellion in the film, notably in Districts 5 and 7. These scenes command the audiences’ attention because they prove that Katniss and District 13 are not alone in their desire for political change.

“Mockingjay, Part 1” also poses interesting questions about society, especially about how we view power and control. The Capitol and President Snow are constructed as an obvious example of authoritarian tyranny and wealth inequality, but the leadership structure of District 13 is far from democracy. While Alma Coin, leader of District 13, claims all citizens are equal, she is ultimately in control as she dictates everyone’s daily schedules and forbids any unnecessary actions or consumption of resources. As everyone in District 13 numbly chants in unison to praise Coin’s accomplishments, it starts to become clear that Katniss is concerned with what the future might hold if the revolution succeeds.

Katniss’s worry is only one of the film’s many cliffhangers that will no doubt leave audiences anxiously anticipating Thanksgiving 2015. Luckily, if the suspense proves to be too great, the novel is only a trip to the bookstore away.

Personal Rating: 4.5/5