THE HUNGER GAMES 3 *** Image Making Magic


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IN “THE HUNGER Games: Mockingjay Part 1”, Katniss Evergreen (the always engaging Jennifer Lawrence) shoots down an attack space craft with a single arrow. Let’s face it, this is a pretty impressive thing to do. But she never gets into the same heightened kick-ass mode as we’ve seen in the previous movies. Maybe this’ll come in Part 2. What Part 1 offers instead is a more introspective story about identity and the nature of image creation.

We’re offered multiple versions of Katniss. We glimpse a ‘real’ Katniss who is a very vulnerable person: just a young woman in love with a man who’s lost to her. She’s also a nightmare-prone victim of too much killing. But this is not how the leadership of the rebels want her to be seen. To them, her defiance of the Capitol has made her an embodiment of the resistance. To them, she’s not really Katniss Evergreen, she’s the Mockingjay. They – the Rebels, lead by President Coin (a thoroughly unconvincing Julianne Moore) and her team of image makers (Philip Seymour-Hoffman as a smooth-talking PR man and an imperious Natalie Dormer, better known as Margaery Tyrell from “Game of Thrones” as her videographer) need her to be an image.

Katniss & Gale-10

She just needs some down time to be herself. But there’s no time to be down. There is no time for vulnerability. There’s certainly no time for romance. As the Capitol pounds away at them, she has, in a sense, to live up to her own image. For her worth to the rebels is not so much as the deering-do archer, but as an idea. The idea of the Mockingjay and the three-fingered finger to authority has become a fundamental part of the Rebels’ weaponry.

To this end, the movie presents us with the dual worlds of Katniss the anguished girl and the icon as produced by the team of PR consultants and image creators. Jennifer Lawrence’s skill lies in allowing us to see both sides of her character, whose anger gives her the strength she needs to harmonize her integrity as an individual –a daughter and sister – and her handlers’ needs of her as the publicized role model of revolt.

The result is a story that’s more angst than action.

 (And what a role model! The idea of the Mockingjay seems to be working well beyond Panem into Thailand, where the authorities seem to have confused a movie rebellion with their own domestic issues).

Indeed, what began two years ago as a merely entertaining Young Adult adventure story has morphed (in the safe hands of director Francis Lawrence who also gave us the spooky  “I Am Legend”) into an interesting mirror to the grimmer reality of the multiple battles we’re facing all over the world now between rebels (be they the Syrian resistance or the Occupy… movement) and authorities (be they the Hong Kong government or the Corporatist overlords).

Like so many battles, they operate both on the physical level of death and destruction and on the level of the increasingly sophisticated word of spin and image management.

Katniss’ opposite number is the love of her life, Peeta, who has been captured and tortured into becoming a spokesperson for the rulers. He is the dark to her light.

He is the John Cantlie of the Capitol (That’s the British journalist who has been captured by ISIS and made to be a spokesperson for their gruesome cause).

And if Katniss is fighting to be the symbol they want her to be without compromising her sense of identity, he has become their symbol because he’s lost his identity.

So, will he get back his identity? Will their love (which was the germ that destabilized the hunger games in the first place) be rekindled? Will Katniss fully emerge into the superhero everyone needs?

Stay tuned

 

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