The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Movie Review

katniss-hunger-games-jennifer-lawrence-2014-billboard-650It has become clear to me that I will never have a normal theater experience. Seriously, theaters hate me. When I saw Godzilla, there was no sound. When I saw The Maze Runner, there was loud ass construction going on next door. And right before I saw Mockingjay, I got horrendously ill. This was all kinds of suck because not only was I sitting in the theater attempting to not breathe on anyone, Mockingjay was quite good and I really wanted to enjoy it to my full capacity.

Spoilers after the jump.

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Sexualized Saturdays: The Double Standard of the Friend Zone

friend zoneThere’s this idea that if a guy is nice to a girl, he deserves something in return. A thank you? Sure. Some… other form of appreciation? Would be more appreciated. What if a guy was nice to a girl over a much longer period of time? Then they’re friends, right? Sure. But what if the guy wants to be more than friends, but for all his niceness, the girl still won’t go out with him?

Well, then the guy’s stuck in the dreaded “friend zone”. And what is the friend zone? It’s where girls relegate guys who are just nice enough to not make it into that erogenous zone where they actually get to have sex. Or, in other words, it’s a stupid social construct that implies both that a guy can’t be nice to a girl out of sheer altruism or friendship, and that if a guy is nice to a girl, she must reciprocate by sleeping with him. And whether or not it’s the girl doing the friendzoning, somehow, the pressure is always on the girl’s romantic interests.

Let’s take a look at some examples from pop culture so you can see what I mean. Slight spoilers for The Hunger Games and Les Misérables below.

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Trailer Tuesdays: Catching Fire

It’s finally here, the long-awaited trailer to the long-awaited movie Catching Fire. I think I watched this trailer four times before I finally stopped being giddy enough to read the release date, which is still so many months away. It’s going to be a while until November rolls around, and I suppose we’ll just have to find something else to watch in the meantime.

This trailer, oh man. This trailer is epic. It doesn’t focus on the 75th annual Hunger Games at all, and instead pays attention to the time leading up to that in the first part of the book. This means that the only victors we see in this trailer are Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch. (Unfortunate, because I would have really liked to see Johanna, Finnick, or even Mags.) Katniss herself, however, is still a badass, and I don’t know of many people willing to stare down a man holding a gun and tell him to go ahead and still look like she’s in charge of this situation, even if she doesn’t feel in charge. Katniss now has to come to terms with the fact that, by surviving the Hunger Games, the Capitol pretty much owns her and Peeta. This is not something she accepts.

President Snow doesn’t like that Katniss managed to show up the Capitol during the previous installment and now she has become a “beacon of hope” to the districts, who are rallying behind her in rebellion. This is a problem that Snow now has to deal with.

I think what really captured my attention is what Snow says at the end of the trailer. He says that “her entire species must be eradicated” in reference to Katniss and the other victors. The people of the Capitol don’t view the people of districts as being the same as them. The districts are little more than slaves to the Capitol, and because slaves don’t matter, no one cares that their children are forced to murder each other year after year. Snow takes it a step further and actually thinks of the victors as an entirely separate species from human beings. In some ways, this is probably what the Capitol thinks of them as well.

This is certainly one movie I’ll be waiting impatiently for.

Sexualized Saturdays: All Women Want is a Date and Nothing Else

So I don’t know how many of you may have noticed, but most fictional women seem to be motivated by one thing: makeup.

Okay, and men.

Obviously I may very well launch into a post on why that’s not true. But instead, let’s also talk about why it’s a damaging idea. So let me start this off with a quick backstory on myself. I’m a nerd. I’m an asexual nerd who never felt the need to seek out a man. I only got a partner eventually because Lady Geek Girl all but super-glued my current boyfriend and I together. But as you can all imagine, it was quite a rough ride for a while. And though the two of us have been dating for almost six years now, I had never been keen on seeking a partner out beforehand.

I just wasn’t interested in it, but I felt as though I would never be happy without a guy, because according to every movie I’ve watched ever, a guy is what I needed. Lord knows, as a woman, I can’t take care of myself, so I need a man to make me happy and to provide for me.

Furthermore, believing that not wanting a partner made me the odd one out and having a skewed frame of reference from the media, I simply didn’t understand other girls growing up. Sure, I had my geeky friends and they all had the occasional crush, but I honestly believed that every other female our age talked about nothing but boys and makeup, which also made me feel as though being a non-nerd girl was very dull.

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Sexualized Saturdays: Peeta Mellark

After I finished reading The Hunger Games, I had a lot of feels. However, pretty much the last thing on my mind was shipping (a new and shocking development). And so, although it doesn’t surprise me that the dichotomy developed, I don’t really feel like I belong to Team Peeta or Team Gale. (Can I be a rebel and be, like, Team Johanna?)

Even when there were romantic moments, the books were just so much not about romance that I didn’t have any desire to go deeper into it. But I digress.

This Sexualized Saturdays is about the wonderful, the tortured, the naïve, the boy with the bread and the crush: Peeta Mellark.

Now as far as sexuality goes, I’ll put it upfront: I think Peeta is irrevocably straight. He may not have had a chance to experience any non-hetero attraction what with having a crush on Katniss for, like, his whole life, so there’s always potential that he’s not a pure Kinsey 0, but I really don’t think so in this case.

So Sexualized Saturdays usually focuses on discussing a character with (at least arguably) a non-heteronormative sexuality, so why did I pick Peeta?

Peeta is interesting to me because of the way he performs his sexuality. While Gale is all about blowing stuff up and killing the bad guys, Peeta presents a different schema for a male lead—he is sensitive and artistic; his skills are the sort that are traditionally relegated to female characters: defense, camouflage, hell, cake decoration, and he holds a crush for Katniss unspoken for a decade—but no fan I know has ever accused him of being less of a man for doing these things. In fact, the Team Peeta cohort is expansively and massively huger (from what I can tell) than the Team Anyone Else groups. The thing that’s cool about Peeta is that he represents a role model that says that regardless of sexual orientation or stereotypes, sticking with your talents and being honest and true to yourself are the most important things. And that’s a nice break from the messages being sent by other franchises.

The Odds are Ever in Favor of ‘The Hunger Games’

Lady Saika: So The Hunger Games made its big-screen debut this weekend, and as I am the only member of this blog who’s both read the trilogy and seen the movie, MadameAce has conscripted me into doing a review with her. This breakaway hit story about children brutally murdering each other in an arena translated well to the screen. (PS—Spoilers abound.)

MadameAce: Well, everything she just said isn’t entirely true. I have read the books, or you know, the first two pages of them… Yeah, I wanted someone who knew what was going on to talk about this with me. I personally cannot really comment on how well the translation was, but as an outsider to the fandom until now, I thought the movie did a really good job, and I wasn’t confused by what was happening.

Lady Saika: I’m always worried going into movies about books I liked, because, well, you never know what they’ll change, how true they’ll stay to the story, or how well the actors and the sets and what-have-you represent the images you have made in your head. Case in point: the Percy Jackson movie, the Eragon movie, need I go on? But I was honestly thrilled with the movie adaptation. So much of the stuff in the books happens in Katniss’s head, but the film translated that into actual scenes (for example, we actually see Haymitch talking up the sponsors, or Caesar explaining the Tracker Jackers to the audience).

MadameAce: Being completely new to the story, the presentation of everything Saika just mentioned and more allowed me to both follow the story and get involved in it. Had Caesar not been shown explaining the Tracker Jackers I would have been left wondering how the hell a bee sting can cause hallucinations and swelling that quickly unless everyone in the future is just that allergic. The only other option to this would be to have Katniss do a voice-over, and I’m really glad that didn’t happen. Unlike books, movies cannot be told from one person’s perspective—I’m talking to you, Twilight—and whenever they try to do that it doesn’t feel right. It’s very much a third person omniscient setting. We, the audience, and especially us newer to the story, needed all the scenes with Caesar and everyone else away from Katniss to understand what was happening. I can’t help but compare this to the Prisoner of Azkaban movie, where I sat there grateful the whole time that I had read the books, because otherwise I’d have had no idea what was going on or why I should care about any of it.

Lady Saika: I was personally grateful for Jennifer Lawrence. She really just nailed Katniss. The character of Katniss was one I loved in the books—she’s badass, she’s pragmatic toa fault, she stands up for what she believes in, and she doesn’t really give two shits about relationship drama. She’s a breath of fresh air in the fiction that’s popular among teens, and I was thrilled with her portrayal of the character.

MadameAce: In a world dominated by male protagonists, Katniss really is a perfect example of a strong female character. All too often I see female protagonists having no qualities outside being female, and yeah, the authors, writers, directors, etc. will try to make them badass, while missing the mark. Yes, Katniss is capable, she can take care of herself, she looks out for others, and she can sure as hell loose an arrow and hit a target, but that’s not what makes her a strong character.

Katniss doesn’t lose sight of the big picture. When Haymitch tells her to play up the romance, yes, a certain part of her grows to like Peeta, but she doesn’t give into it in light of everything that’s happening. She sets her goals and then she goes toward them. What I love most about her is that she doesn’t give into the game and she finds a way to beat the system. After watching her go through all of this, I couldn’t help but wonder how things would have changed if Rue lived, because knowing Katniss, she’d save her too if she could.

Lady Saika: Speaking of Rue, her backstory was one of the few things they left out that I was sad about. Although her character is still certainly relatable and likeable in the movie, the book’s glimpse into her former life in agricultural District 11 helped you sympathize more with her as a well-rounded character who dies (rather than just being the cute kid who dies). However, just as in the books, Rue serves as the most constant and poignant reminder that the Hunger Games are a barbaric, unfair, brutal, and cruel institution.

MadameAce: The world at large seems to have a very mixed view on the Hunger Games themselves. Katniss needed to be from a poorer district in order for the audience to sympathize with her. We don’t like the idea of children being forced to fight to the death—or at least I don’t, and I hope most of you agree with me—and it’s the people from the poorer backgrounds that truly see and fear what the Games are. They struggle to survive, and one of the ways they can do that is by putting their names into the draw more times in exchange for food. And when they’re called as tributes, it’s a death sentence. The looks on everyone’s face just lets you know that they don’t expect the tributes to come back alive.

The Capitol itself seems all but oblivious to the woes of the districts. Yes, some districts, like 1 and 2, train their children to fight and don’t have to worry about having their names put into the lottery numerous time due to their wealth, but the people in the Capitol don’t even view the tributes as people. They treat it very much like a show for entertainment, because to them, that’s exactly what the Hunger Games are. At one scene, when Katniss first enters the Capitol, she sees two little children playing with swords, and it’s all fun and games to them. The really hideous woman whose name I cannot remember tells both Katniss and Peeta to be happy because they get dessert and the other tributes don’t. Very few people seem to realize just how cruel and barbaric this practice is, and the ones who do are either survivors from previous years or their personal trainers who have to watch their students die over and over again.

And the people at the Capitol say numerous times that this is to remind the districts of their failed uprising and stop it from happening again. But in actuality, it’s been so long, the Hunger Games probably do more harm than good to the country’s unity.

LadySaika: MadameAce is spot-on. Katniss’s respectful treatment of Rue’s body shows the Games’ viewers that she thinks of her opponents as people worth mourning rather than targets. The Capitol refuses to re-air that scene in reruns because it does incite the viewers in the districts to greater discontent (although it’s not like they were excited about the Games anyway) and as far as full-out rebellion (particularly in Rue’s home, District 11).

Furthermore, although the Capitol uses the Games as a trump card over the districts, guaranteeing their loyalty, after nearly seventy-five years of Games they are out of touch with their victims. The movie also did a good job of showing the brutality of the kids killing each other without it becoming too horrifically gory, but in a way that still shows the disconnect between the rulers and the ruled and forces the viewer to feel objectively uncomfortable (I’m reminded of Katniss watching old Game footage on the train and Caesar’s voiceover saying “Here’s that magical moment when a Tribute becomes a Victor”—as a boy finishes braining another kid with a brick.)

The districts as they stood after the original rebellion had no choice but to let the Capitol take their children; however, their resentment towards the Capitol has grown stronger just as they have recovered their strength over the years. By the end of the movie they stand strong enough to rise up against the Capitol. All they need is a spark—and now they have the Girl on Fire, who spit in the face of the Capitol and refused to play its Game. The ending of the movie is final (the film could definitely stand alone if the producers were to decide, perhaps because they hate money, to discontinue the series) but it is also uncertain—even Peeta and Katniss don’t know what will happen when they get home, and the adults are certainly on edge, because nothing like Katniss’s victory has ever happened before.

The next installment in the trilogy, Catching Fire, doesn’t start filming for a while yet. But they’ve done a tremendous job adapting the first movie, and I now trust them enough to say I look forward to seeing what they do with the next two books.