By Johnny Beaver
We live in strange times, my friends. In the wake of the Harry Potter franchise, adults have been dipping their big toes in and out of the movie waters, checking to see if any other “young adult” franchises have lived up to the standard. There have been your Percy Jacksons and your Divergents… and even a “Lemony Snicket,” whatever the hell that is. There have been victories, and there have been tragedies. On that note, my condolences to those that perished as a result of including Twilight in this. But I digress, this is about the newest sequel in The Hunger Games trilogy, which has already proven itself highly successful amongst all age groups—some more disturbing than others (my dad watched and liked the first film). The question here is: how does it stack up against the first two films? The answer: really damn well.
There are a few ways to do a sequel, and with the first installment of Mockingjay they took the road less traveled: a film that dives into its function as a sequel, as opposed to trying to stand alone. Without an elaborate set up and knocking down of any pins, the production was free to breathe. The result consisted of some really excellent performances from everyone involved (despite a few cringe-worthy moments from Jennifer Lawrence), more substantial character development, comedic moments that were better written and expertly placed, and some seriously fantastic set work that really sold the whole package.
Additionally, and definitely requiring some special mention, was the way they handled the propaganda theme. Most films, regardless of the original content, will choose a hard line stance and go for it, simply because the chuckleheads in row nine can’t handle anything deeper. Not only did they toy with the absurdity of propaganda, but they fully explored the consequences of its use—whether backed up by reality or totally fabricated. The concept of “good vs. evil” also had a hammer taken to it, instead rendering a much more realistic landscape of gray areas. You know, even if the bad guys were still really, really bad. And very Donald Sutherlandy. Some of the good guys even go the route of the suicide bomber. There’s really a lot to think about, and it does a bang-up job of letting you do so without feeding you your opinion.
It’s no secret that I thought the first Divergent series film was really well done, and Mockingjay – Part 1 definitely came off a bit more in that direction than the hyped sort of whizz-bang content in the first two Hunger Games films. Even the hilarious Lumberjacks vs. Stormtroopers (you’ll know it when you see it) mini battle came off as tasteful.
The fact is, if you’re into the series you’re going to go see it, and if you’re not, well, you missed two movies already, so I doubt you’ll stumble into this one. So have I wasted my breath? I think not. It wasn’t a film for the ages, but it was a great effort by hard-working people, and it sure as nuts was a lot more intellectually and creatively stimulating than literally 90 percent of the other flicks out there.