Thursday, March 26, 2015

My Obligatory Thoughts on the Obligatory Mockingjay Part 1


The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1 isn’t a movie I’d review under ordinary circumstances, not because of any terribly insulting aspect in its execution but because MJ1 is an inherently insulting movie, one that shouldn’t even exist and only proves time and time again the inadvisability of its own existence. But being as I’ve already reviewed the first two installments of this rapidly aging trilogy, it seems premature to quit now, so I’ll persevere for yourguysez sakes.

Considering its intellectually enfeebled target audience, MJ1 opens the only way it could, with an expository refresher assuming that viewers don’t recall what happened in the last act.  Katniss wakes up in bed breathing heavily and giving herself vocal reminders of her situation and identity, because of PTSD, or something.  In any case, this is our first glimpse of an emotionally weaker and generally grumpier Katniss who will break down screaming and crying on several occasions because she’s just so hungry for the bread boy Peeta, who’s been captured by President Snow and very obviously coerced into discouraging rebellion against the Capitol.  Gale returns in as bland a form as ever; if there was any romance in the movie, I must have missed it.  There’s certainly none of the humor that made Hunger Games 1 or 2 halfway enjoyable in their first halves, with comic relief Effie Trinket deprived of her ostentatious makeup and personality, Haymitch largely reduced to the part of an assistant community-mobilizing strategerist, and the loveably loathsome entertainer Caesar Flickerman now having nothing better than to do than slow-jamming the news in a series of dull propaganda interviews with Peeta.

If you’ve already read the book like a responsible member of American society, then you’ll know that The Hunger Games Part 3 Part 1 doesn’t actually have any Hunger Games in it, which wouldn’t be a problem if the writer (Danny Strong of such exalted made-for-TV titles as Game Change and Empire) at least incorporated some external conflict in the narrative, but this he doesn’t do because there’s no feasible way to split up Mockingjay in a way that maintains suspense and action across both halves.  All the violence in Part 1 consists of Katniss flying to a hospital in a poorly rendered sci-fi jet, shooting down two somewhat better rendered jets, and giving an inspirational battle speech to the camera that will become the sound bite of the brewing revolution.  “If we burn, you burn with us!”  I don’t remember if that was a line from the book or not, though I’m not convinced it matters one way or another.  It’s just irredeemably, irreparably cheesy. Apart from this brief spurt of excitement, an unduly segment of the movie focuses on people walking somewhere or looking at something without speaking.  Long pauses between lines unnecessarily draw out the movie’s runtime and there are far too many scenes of characters in transit to the next scene.  Towards the end the movie pulls out the really crappy, now overused ploy of showing several events simultaneously and inadvertently gutting the tension in each.  The rebels are using a broadcast message by surviving tribute Finnick O’Dair as a diversion to help a special ops team recover Peeta (whom we’re told Snow has brainwashed into making a murder effort on the mockingjay, despite the utter implausibility of that actually working), and Finnick is speaking candidly of how the elites sold his body following the games, but the movie doesn’t give its audience room to dwell on this because it’s frantically cutting back and forth between three ongoing scenes, none of them very intriguing from a film standpoint.

Mockingjay wouldn’t be as insulting a movie if the writer actually fit a justifiable amount of action into the plot, but there’s basically one major event in the whole of MJ1 that’s forecast from miles away.  Katniss mopes and groans about Plutarch and the other conspirators leaving Peeta to the Capitol’s mercy, saying she won’t be the rebellion’s icon until they get him back, which of course they eventually do, but not before a bunch of random confrontations and political banter that happens in between and no one will remember afterwards.  I hate to belabor a point that others have made a million times already, but there really is no artistic or other conceivable reason for MJ1’s existence aside from the obvious financial boon Lionsgate stood to gain from its release.  Go and add another Progressive victory to your end-of-year report, Lionsgate.  First you boldly took on Homo-phobia in science-fiction literature, now you’re educating the public about the consequences of Corporate Greed.

At least the acting’s OK.  Jennifer Lawrence is once again good as Katniss except in the parts where the director desperately wants us to think she’s an inspiring voice for revolution.  Perhaps it wasn’t a great idea to show Lawrence playing a character poorly playing another character before showing Lawrence actually playing her character poorly. The filmmakers cut Julianne Moore egregiously short, only allowing her to pour a smidgeon of her natural odiousness into the part of District 13’s leader Coin, though we’ll probably get to see a lot more of that in Part 2.  In the meantime one can always watch Magnolia for Moore at her most shrewish.  Speaking of Magnolia, Philip Seymour Hoffman really just showed up for work, which is pretty damn disappointing from a guy we all made such a fuss over just for dying.  Possibly to compensate for the series’ steadily aging cast (no new batch of tributes in this installment), the filmmakers made up or significantly augmented a minor character called Cressida so as to get Natalie Dormer into the picture, but this addition probably marred the film’s reception more than anything, bitterly reminding audiences of all the wonderful Game of Thrones clips they could be watching instead of Mockingjay, for which Ms. Dormer has inexplicably opted to shave one side of her head and tattoo a vineyard in its place.  One could hardly blame the viewer for pulling out his phone mid-film and doing an image search for Dormer in her better, pre-Hunger Shaves days – not that I would ever do that myself.  I’m a professional critic who takes his unpaid work very seriously and would never, ever consciously distract himself with the visage of a fair woman…

… That being said, with M.J.One I may have made an exception.

Natalie Dormer’s unattractive haircut

Final verdict: I’d rather be watching GOT (which I really can’t afford to as it’s $35 on Blu-ray – #&%! you, HBO).

2 comments:

  1. Yes! Finally an article of such length that those who should find themselves reading this blog can yet live to see the end of the post. For so long we have thrown away our time to the massive time-suck of crawling our way through your extensive opinions, and now, for once, we can read something before we grow as old as Woody Harrelson is starting to look.

    If you could simply deign to write more posts like this, people might take interest in your banal, unending commentary. Like no one has ever made an 11-minute Obama super cut before! Pound sign Rehash.

    I love it when you finally get over yourself and just write something short and to the point as opposed to flaunting your gargantuan vocabulary at everyone who stumbles across your insignificant blog. Please write more posts like this in the future, as I'm sure everyone will appreciate some brevity for a change.

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    1. So you have enough time to write three paragraphs complaining about some AP Stylebook rule I'm apparently disregarding but not enough time to read three paragraphs written on something that actually matters? I bet you aced English 101.

      ~ A Concerned Blogger

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