Let’s all go to the lobby …

Before I write up a post on how well my reading on Friday went (Spoiler: It was great!), I want to do a quick review of the movie Mockingjay: Part 1 that I saw this weekend: I really liked it. The more I think about it, the more I like it.

It’s not an action movie, exactly, although there is some action in it. In the way that Katniss both is, and is not, an action hero. She’s an action hero in that she’s completely competent in the things she does well, she’s confident in what is right vs wrong, she’s able to take actions and save people. But she is never, not once, in charge of her fate. And she knows it to her core – she is smart, and her anger and lashing out are justified. Whenever she tries to be in charge of her fate, someone rips that from her grasp. That never stops her from trying. But it does unavoidably break her, in ways that this part of the story explores.

When we start out this movie, the very first scene clues us into the fact that this narrative portion will be mostly psychological. I don’t want to spoil the plot for people who haven’t read the books, but I don’t think it’s a secret that both previous parts of this story involve horrific things happening to and around Katniss, over and over. And she has a psychological reaction to it. Not a good one. (Note – I will try not to, but there may be spoilers for plot below, so if you haven’t read the books, proceed with what caution you like.)

I know people who dislike the 3rd book because nothing happens in this part of it, that there’s a lot of mooning around, and everything is boring. But I think that’s a misreading of the text. I mean, you get out of it what you get out of it. But I don’t think you can have all of books one and two happen, and then just get right to the action for book three. Not with a human. Not with any human. Not and still be really writing out how actual humans actually react to trauma. Katniss is dealing with multiple, awful trauma. And it keeps happening. What this story shows is how she works to pull herself together – it’s a hugely important part of the story. And, I would say, a hugely important thing to show in story. I don’t think we show it enough, how people pull themselves together and what the costs are of, specifically, this kind of (war, psychological) trauma. And how much work it takes, and how different people heal differently.

Add to that mix the fact that both leaders – Coin and Snow – are fighting a psychological battle with each other, and with the minds of the people they lead and oppose. They’re using the tools they have: tools like Katniss and Peeta. They’re using them against not only each other, and each other’s people and fighters, but using them against themselves – Katniss and Peeta are tools each to batter the other, and are trying not to not be. I think that hit me in this movie harder than it did in the text. The framing of the parts outside of Katniss’ point of view were particularly strong in this film. That may have helped. I know people who have seen this movie and found it slow, or boring, but again, I think they missed the point. The point that I get out of it, anyway: war breaks people. Unrelenting war unrelentingly breaks people. Broken people can fight, but you won’t always get what you’re expecting. The cost is always too high, and leaders are always willing to pay that cost with other people’s minds and bodies.

This movie does set up the end really well. I wasn’t convinced, going in, that we needed 2 movies for the last book. But now that I’ve seen it, I can see their reasons, and I agree with the decision. It may have been made for money, but the writers and director made some pretty inspired choices. They’re continuing on the trend of the earlier movies to show you how propaganda is used, how spies are used, how people are used, to further government agenda. And as before, they are showing you the human cost of those uses. The end of this movie is not a reason to cheer. It is a reason to question every war, every prison, every covert action any government has ever taken in human history. If you aren’t both chilled and heartbroken, then I think you weren’t really paying that much attention to the narrative. Your call, but I feel you missed out.

 PS All of the acting was fantastic: Solid kudos to all the actors. It was sad to see Hoffman and know he’s gone.