Proletarians of the world, UNITE! Woohoo!
Mockingjay Part 1 asks us to confront the moral dilemma of participating in an armed insurrection against a government which has become openly hostile and ruthlessly repressive.
I give this film, and the series, a lot of credit because I firmly believe that it is exposing the nature of state power and the consequences of collectivism in general pretty effectively.
This film sets the stage for what is sure to be a violent showdown between the Capitol and the resistance.
In this film, we find Katniss Everdeen in the underground headquarters of the resistance which lies below the presumed ruin of District 13. They need her to muster the defiant spirit which galvanized the citizens of Panem during the Games and assume the mantle of the Mockingjay, the living symbol of resistance. They have some pretty serious technological and military resources at their disposal for being an underground resistance, but hey, whatever, man. Dramatic license.
Effie Trinket makes a return appearance but has been banished from the Capitol and has taken residence in 13 as a political refugee. Sadly, she has been deprived of the flamboyant outfits she enjoyed in the Capitol, but her marketing/PR expertise remains intact. In her reunion with Katniss, she reveals the special portfolio of costume drawings Cinna left for Katniss should she choose to assume the mantle of Mockingjay. Cinna believed in the resistance, and like every good propagandist knew that a demagogue needed to be well dressed and look fantastic (hello Anita Sarkeesian).
She agrees to take up the cause, but only if President Coin agrees to rescue Peeta Mellark from the Capitol. President Coin promptly reminds her that proles of 13 don’t get to make demands. Here we receive confirmation of the dubious intentions of the resistance which in turn inspires the spirit of rebellion and defiance that makes Katniss such a likable character.
Upon donning her Mass Effect-ready battle costume, Katniss unsurprisingly fails to muster her fighting spirit when she is asked to regurgitate Plutarch Heavensbee’s hackneyed script against CGI-generated images of “rebellion”. They decide to go full on reality TV at Haymitch Abernathy’s behest and take the film crew to the front lines of the resistance.
They go to a hospital which is filled with the casualties of war. She is pulled out of her dazed torpor when she is recognized by one of the patients.
“Are you fighting Katniss? Are you here to fight with us?”, he asks.
“I am. I will.”, she responds.
In yet another display of the mind poison that is collectivism, the entire hospital goes silent and dutifully makes the three-fingered Mockingjay salute in honor of Katniss’ pledge. Naturally, her production crew gets it on film.
The Capitol is aware of their presence and they manage to narrowly escape a deadly aerial bombing. Katniss takes down one of the fighter jets with one of her bitchen new explosive arrows but her emotions are rent by the slaughter that happens right before her eyes.
“Fire Is Catching… If we burn, you burn with us!”
Oh, it’s on, bitches!
Naturally, the Capitol retaliates with a brutal crackdown. President Snow stages a mass broadcast public execution in which he proclaims any public association or display of the Mockingjay a crime punishable by death. The speech closes with coordinated executions in all of the districts where citizens are shot in the head by the state police. It’s some heavy stuff for material that’s geared towards a YA audience, but portrayals of brutal violence carry more weight when you can feel the consequences. So good on Suzanne Collins and the filmmakers for not glossing this over.
Peeta is now a handmaiden of the Capitol and is making televised appeals to the resistance to stand down and lay down their weapons.
Remember, proles. The state can initiate violence. You can’t. Nor should you.
Naturally, it doesn’t work and a series of ever escalating acts of violence are initiated from both sides.
Katniss’ torn affection for Gale and Peeta is frustrating and speaks to her own narcissism. She has affection for both but seems unwilling to make a choice. Do you want love and commitment or do you want to be a martyr? Make up your fucking mind, Katniss.
The rallies held by the resistance of District 13 are just as creepy as the grotesque, baroque pageantry of the Capitol. President Coin peddles some of the usual bullshit about democracy and freedom and her slogans are answered by the mindless repetitions of the bloodthirsty mob. They’re even dressed in sexless, drab proletarian body suits. Equality, comrades!
The film concludes with the rescue of a brainwashed Peeta and the looming threat of a violent conflict.
The thing that’s especially interesting to me is that whether the filmmakers intended it or not, these films make a powerful case for gun ownership. How else are you going to defend yourself against a state that possesses both the deadliest weapons and is all too willing to exert violent force against the population in order to extract obedience.
I’m probably one of the ten or so people who hasn’t read the complete trilogy (read the first book though) so I look forward to seeing where they take this story.