MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Lionsgate Films
Directed by Francis Lawrence. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson
Here’s the third film in a four film series based on the popular YA novels by Suzanne Collins and, like its predecessors, it’s exciting and intelligent, a rare popcorn movie that lingers with you, giving you something to think about (and an earworm of a tune to hum on the way home if you stay through the closing credits).
Set in the near future in the totalitarian country Panem, the first two films depicted the world of The Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death between rival districts in which young men and women “tributes” (some of them children) sacrificed their lives in the contest while distracting the populace from the oppressive government in charge of their daily misery.
By the end of Catching Fire, the games have ended through acts of open rebellion. Some of the tributes have been killed, others captured, and Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) has been spirited away by the leaders of the resistance, led by President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Katniss has already become a bit of a media sensation by being triumphant in two Hunger Games. Her birdlike Mockingjay costume is exploited as a symbol for the rebellion and Katniss is coached to appear in propaganda videos intended to inspire all of the districts to rise up against The Capitol and its coolly evil (and aptly named) President Snow (Donald Sutherland).
The majority of this 2-hour film is about how Katniss adjusts to all of the expectations placed upon her while the growing rebel base develops strategies to fight against power. The film doesn’t hold back from showing early scenes of death and destruction, making the point that awareness of such tragedy must be set against the pleasant lies of deception in order for truth to out (“Faithless children…who will not hear the instruction of the LORD [will] say to the seers, ‘Do not see’; and to the prophets, ‘Speak to us smooth things.’” – Isaiah 30:9-10 NRSV).
I appreciated how the movie showed the sacrifices necessary for the right to prevail, giving us a heroine who is always aware of the costs of right moral choices. As Christians, we are bold to say that we follow a savior who leads us in this fashion while also trying to lead comfortable American lives. Mockingjay Part 1 offers us a broken country in which this compromising position is no longer morally defensible. The viewer is invited to ponder just how broken a world needs to be before moral persons will feel compelled to take a stand.
Three halos: The post apocalyptic epic reaches its penultimate chapter with style and intelligence.
Two pitchforks: Violent scenes of death and torture; deception and cruelty.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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