The Authors

Our Reel Heroes Book
Greg Smith & Scott Allison

Acknowledgements

  • ♦ We thank Fotomontaggio for the header photo from Wikimedia Commons.
  • ♦ Many thanks to the good folks at Sedona Taphouse for serving up some good eats after we watch the movies reviewed here.
  • ♦ Many thanks to our friends at The Numbers where we get our movie release information (which aids in advance planning)
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The Hunger Games: The Mockingjay – Part 1 ••••

MockingjayPart1Poster3Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Director: Francis Lawrence
Screenplay: Peter Craig, Danny Strong, Suzanne Collins
Science Fiction/Adventure, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 123 minutes
Release Date: November 21, 2014

SPOILERS WITHIN!

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I was hungry for another dose of Katniss Everdeen and the Hunger Games.


scott
(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

I was hungry for bread and found me some Peeta. But enough games. Let’s recap.


When we last saw Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), she was being carried away in a hovercraft to District 13. She wakes up in a hospital room and we learn that she’s been there for a couple months. Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman)  is trying to convince President Coin (Julianne Moore) that Katniss is the key to the new revolution. That she is the “Mockingjay”. Coin is unconvinced. After some failed attempts to get Katniss to look heroic, Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) suggests they send her into the field and get her gut reactions. They do and in the process they get footage of Katniss destroying Capitol bombers and making a rousing speech.


A rebel demolition team is sent to the Capitol to destroy a dam, which is the Capitol’s sole source of electricity. Meanwhile, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is being held hostage by the central government and is also being used as a mouthpiece for propaganda. At the end of one of Peeta’s speeches, he blurts out a warning that District 13 is about to be attacked. His warning saves many lives, but also endangers his own life. Katniss convinces the president to send a rescue team into the Capitol to get Peeta. But the reunion between the two star-crossed lovers does not turn out as expected.


Scott, I was pretty disappointed in this prelude to the final episode in the Hunger Games series. It represents only half the last novel and moves really slowly. It’s as if the writers and director were trying to fill up space to make the film stretch out to 120 minutes. Still, it was true to the source material. The special effects and acting were very good. But there wasn’t much of a story. It was all a set up for the final movie, due out in November of 2015.


Actually, Greg, unlike you, I enjoyed Mockingjay – Part 1 more than I did the first two Hunger Games movies. For a change, there were no hunger games situations involving kids hunting each other. Instead, we are presented with an intriguing psychological battle between President Snow and Panem’s rebels. We are shown techniques that governments use to win the hearts and minds of the masses. It’s a fascinating chess game, orchestrated by Plutarch on one side and Snow on the other.

Best of all, we finally see Katniss Everdeen undergo a personal transformation. My main complaint about the first two installments of Hunger Games has been the absence of growth in the character of Katniss. She’s been a heroic figure from the very outset of the first movie, when she takes her sister’s place as a participant in the games. But in Mockingjay – Part 1 we finally see Katniss develop into something new — a leader. She transcends her role as the brave, selfless, resourceful warrior. By the end of this film she has evolved into an admired leader and statesman, er, statesperson. It’s a welcome change to see Katniss ascend to a new, higher level of development.


We’ve disagreed on this before – I’ve always thought Katniss was a great hero. But yes, she definitely grows into a new role in this latest chapter. Like a classic hero, she is given the call to adventure but she refuses the call. She doesn’t want to be the Mockingjay. But once she realizes Peeta is alive and captive in the Capitol, she takes up the mantel of the hero and becomes the Mockingjay so that she can save Peeta.

President Snow (Donald Sutherland)  is exposed to be a villainous lout who rose to his position of power by poisoning his opponents. He represents the classic “mastermind” villain – one who controls others and rarely gets his hands duty. Like a puppet master, he coerces Peeta to record propaganda that tells the people of the districts that Katniss was the evildoer and that they should not follow her.


On the one hand, you could say that the villain here is a dull and simple mastermind. But in a sense, this movie tells a villain story like no other. Peeta, one of the main heroic figures in the first two movies, has now evolved into an oppositional character. Yes, it is true that Peeta’s been brainwashed, but his call for Panem to cease hostilities conflicts with Katniss’s plans to reform this dystopian, dysfunctional Capitol government. So you could argue that this film gives us a glimpse of a Stockholm-syndrome-like process of villain development.


I was glad to get another episode of The Hunger Games and another dose of a great female hero. We’re really getting quite a few of them now (witness Divergent and Lucy). While I was disappointed that I’ll have to wait another year before the final chapter will be played out, I liked this movie enough to give it 4 out of 5 Reels.

Katniss grows more in this film than in previous films. The filmmakers are not dressing our hero in flowing gowns and showing off her “attributes.” She’s dressed in battle gear. She’s a tough, strong leader. I love seeing this growth not only in Katniss, but in the types of female role models that are emerging for our young women. I give Katniss 5 out of 5 Heroes.

The villains are not as pronounced in this segment as they were in previous ones. We’re given a little more information about President Snow and his backstory. We are definitely treated to a look inside Snow’s mind and how he manipulates not only physically, but also psychologically. I’m hoping we’ll see more of that development in the final installment. I give President Snow 3 out of 5 Villains.

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For me, Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is arguably the strongest of the three Hunger Games movies. The film has less action but is more psychologically compelling in its portrayal of social movements, leadership development, and brainwashing techniques. Our hero Katniss has stepped up significantly to become much more than a young woman who can survive a deadly game. She is now a heroic leader of the Panem people. I give this movie 4 Reels out of 5.

As mentioned, this is the strongest hero story of the three Hunger Games movies. Katniss is thrown into the world of political leadership and, as such, she is required to grow in an unfamiliar world that stretches her personally. She is not only transformed as a person, but she also transforms an entire society. I award her 5 Heroes out of 5.

President Snow is a fairly formulaic mastermind villain, but Peeta’s surprising role as an oppositional force to Katniss’s leadership turns out to be the main focus of the film. Without Peeta’s brainwashed adversarial presence and without his murderous attack on Katniss, this movie would earn a rating of 1 Villain out of 5. But Peeta’s unique oppositional role bumps my rating up to 3 Villains out of 5.

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