The scars that mark my body, they’re silver and gold… #review of Hunger Games: #Mockingjay and Snowpiercer

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For a perspective on Hunger Games 3: Mockingjay Pt 1 vol X Director’s Cut Special Edition (in Dolby Surround Sound where available) check out this review by a friend of mine.  Liz writes:

This is a dark and unrelenting film with few moments of humour and lightness. It relies heavily on the audience having read and being engaged with the books. Without that background knowledge there is little for the audience to hold onto and the filmmakers haven’t tried very hard to keep the pace and continuity.

I continue to be amazed at how bad these films are.  Each film finds new lows and reveals that they haven’t really thought about the structure of the world or how they’re going to explore it.

After finding out that she wasn’t a rational agent in the second film, Katniss wakes up in District 13 where she continues to have excruciatingly little say in what happens to her.  The leaders of the rebellion want her to be the face of their cause — not intellectually or substantively, just as its photogenic face.  The film follows Katniss as she tries to fulfill her public relations role.

Let’s drill down to the crunchy bits of the film.  Donald Sutherland’s bourgeois despotic state is evil and has decided that the best way to secure order is to strictly regulate its people and bomb hospitals. Meanwhile, the very good and extremely enlightened District 13 is run by a military fascist organisation under Julianne Moore that compels everybody to wear a grey uniform, chant military rallies, and regulates food, pets, and activities.

Which government should we prefer?   Sutherland’s state is a controlled capitalist state that allows a wide variety of public liberties.  Moore, on the other hand, runs an extremely oppressive bunker with excessive regulation of individuals.

Which brings me to Snowpiercer.  In order to solve global warming, mankind plunges the Earth into an ice age.  The only survivors exist on a train fueled by The Sacred Engine.  In order to ensure the survival of the human race, the passengers on the train are separated into classes.  The underclass at the rear of the engine hate their lot in life, so challenge the police who keep them oppressed.  Beyond the police, they find an increasingly luxurious world of passengers who occupy the upper classes.  Finally, we meet the man who controls the engine.

The film is a wreck.  It’s ham-fisted attempt at analogy results in a painful viewing experience.

But the worst aspect it shares with Hunger Games: Mockingjay — it doesn’t understand what is so effective about tyranny.  The clownish, spacey, broadly incompetent figures who represent authority in these films make it difficult to understand how they managed to obtain power and how they managed to stay in power.

The films push a view that tyranny is easy to spot and understand.  A tyrant responds to threats with unfocused violence.  A tyrant has stormtroopers who a brutally sadistic.  A tyrant maintains his power by reminding the oppressed how oppressed they are.

Buffoonish tyranny is easy to portray and it makes us feel comfortable.  We can look into other worlds and see how obviously oppressed they are.  If only they had our liberties!  If only they had our freedoms!  Wouldn’t that be great?

What’s more difficult — and more frightening — is presenting a film where the State’s power is absolute and yet the oppressed are completely unable to fight back, not because they are physically incapable of mounting a resistance but because they are intellectually incapable of recognising that they are oppressed.  The population don’t resist their oppression because they normalise and internalise the conditions of being oppressed.

Consider how quickly the audience accepted Moore as a leader of a good rebellion, even though her District is governed by a junta.  Why doesn’t the audience get squeamish when her character is presented?  Why do they immediately find her sympathetic as a ‘good’ character?

Perhaps the more interesting message of the film is the role media relations plays in politics — both reactionary and revolutionary.  The same person who advised Sutherland and was part of the propaganda machine to keep him in power is now the adviser to Moore and is part of the propaganda war against the Capitol.  This keeps the focus of the film on the propaganda element of politics, often at the expense of the ordinary people who are fighting the civil war.  Indeed, you’d be forgiven for thinking that District 13 wasn’t interested in winning an actual war but would be happy just to win hearts and minds.

Hunger Games: Mockingjay and Snowpiercer are clumsy, stupid films.  Don’t watch them.

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