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Sunday 7 December 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, (2014) Film directed by Francis Lawrence 7.5* out of 10

With the Huger Games: Mockingjay dystopian science fiction is coming home – not good sign for the real world.

Katnis Everdeen, (Jenifer Lawrence) the reluctant but victorious female gladiator having morphed into the regime’s recalcitrant superstar has now openly turned against the regime and joined the opposition. 

At the start of Part 1 of the final volume of Suzanne Collins’ young adult fiction book trilogy (spun out in the screen version over 2 films), Katniss has managed to rescue her mother, sister. With her also is Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) one of her two love interests between whom she will eventually have to choose unless polyandry becomes a viable option in her universe or a third marriageable bachelor should turn up unexpectedly. The love story is weakest link in the otherwise interesting  and coherent plot.

Mockingjay shows Katniss as a female figurehead of the opposition uprising, which pitches the agro-industrial regions of Panem (the fictional country in which this tale takes place) against its exploitative capital. The female president of the opposition Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) is surrounded her political advisors some of whom used to advise the ruling regime but have become disaffected with it.

What lifts the Hunger Games to the quality end of not only Young Adult Science Fiction is the coherence of the story with the depiction of a credible exploitative authoritarian regime whose opulence is displayed in a wealthy capital city.  It has achieved that wealth by enslaving the population and exploiting the natural riches of the capital’s hinterland. An other strength of Mockingjay is its depiction of the sophisticated handling through the use of iconic images for propaganda on both sides of the conflict.  The film succeeds through strong performances, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman is special political adviser Plutarch Heavensbee to the opposition president. Donald Sutherland continues to shine as the charismatically clever and delectably evil President Snow.

Most disturbing about the Mockingjay - Part1 is that it has been overtaken by reality. The scenes of devastation in Syria and Iraq, the propaganda movies Daësh (Islamic State), the female Kurdish Peshmerga heroines fighting in Syria’s North are today’s reality. So is a President and her advisers watching a commando raid relayed live from body cameras of the elite military unit to the situation room.  What makes our 2014 reality more dystopian than this fiction is the involvement with good and bad intention of foreign governments, international media and non-governmental organisations. Moreover and most frighteningly the brutality with which the rebels conduct their uprising and their use of it in propaganda videos has outpaced anything The Hunger Games Mocking Jay can offer. 

As a result, many in the audience will not be able to keep themselves from wondering whether a government led by Alma Coin surrounded by her advisors will be more effective in providing justice and rule of law to the surviving inhabitants of Panem’s regions than one led by President Snow.  The pictures in our heads of the Arab Spring, Libya, Syria, Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are a context which deeply influences our perspective on what is turning out to be an evocative piece of fiction turned, not unsuccessfully, into an epic saga unfolding on the silver screen. Dystopian science fiction is coming home – not good thing for the real world. 

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