MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by Francis Lawrence. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson.
If you never knew what YA Fiction was, by now you should. These novels (most of them series) create a world in which teenagers are the smartest kids in the room, often having to suffer the normal pangs of adolescence while also saving the country (or whatever fictional country the story calls its home). J.K. Rowling, with her Harry Potter series, pulled off the amazing feat of creating a series that grew up with the reader, moving from children’s to YA to adult fiction during its seven-book reign.
Of all of the post-Potter series, I have enjoyed Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games the most. The story began on the screen with 2010’s The Hunger Games in which Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) volunteered to take her sister Primrose’s (Willow Smith) place in a state-run reality show (set in the dictatorship known as The Capitol) in which representatives of the various districts competed to the death to win fame for their districts while also being co-opted by the government to dole out propaganda. To the victor goes the spoils, and it is a spoiled prize, indeed.
By the time this film begins (halfway through the plot of Mockingjay, the last book in the trilogy) Katniss has joined a group of revolutionaries to bring down the regime of President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland). They are aided in their efforts by a large ragtag army led by rebel President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) which includes Katniss’ two love interests: Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), the boy from home, and Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson), Katniss’ team partner in the Hunger Games. When the film begins, Peeta is coming out of a time of torture and brainwashing by the Capitol.
Katniss is being heralded throughout the land as “The Mockingjay” and is shown reverence and honor as a symbol for freedom. Her sister and mother (Paula Malcomson) are at her side, paralleling Mary’s consistent journey with Jesus to the cross.
The plot is simple. Katniss is on her way to assassinate President Snow and bring down the empire. But – if you have been paying attention – Katniss has never murdered anyone willfully. How will she do the right thing?
The film takes about 45 minutes to start moving (it’s 137 minutes long), but it is a thrilling ride. It’s also not timid in reminding us that these are dark days depicted onscreen. Credit Jennifer Lawrence for another great turn as Katniss Everdeen, The Girl on Fire. She is not afraid to show us sorrow and pain as she grows from voluntary martyr to reluctant savior to courageous soldier in the span of four movies. I encourage families of older youth to view this movie together and then spend time discussing the price of freedom and what makes a true hero.
Four halos: A fitting conclusion to a film about moral choices and the sacrifices necessary to do the right thing.
Three pitchforks: Widespread destruction and deaths of key characters; duplicity; scary monsters; dumb character names.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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