Farewell to the Mockingjay

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Movie Review: Mockingjay, Part 2
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Phillip Seymore Hoffman, Donald Sutherland and Woody Harrelson.
Rated: PG-13

When we last saw Katniss Everdeen, she was grappling with the physical and emotional effects of nearly being strangled to death by Peeta Mellark, who didn’t exactly greet her with hugs and kisses after his rescue from the Capitol. During his capture, President Snow had been dosing him with tracker jacket venom and while he once looked at Katniss with love, now he’s now been conditioned to to perceive her as a threat. Hence the assassination attempt.

The fourth and final installment in the Hunger Games movie saga (based on the best-selling young adult series by Suzanne Collins) picks up right where part 1 left off. Katniss is still bruised and battered and the Rebels are doing all they can to recondition Peeta so they can use him on their side in the fight for freedom from Snow’s reign.

Much like its predecessor, the first hour or so of the movie is painfully slow. Too much time is spent on both characters getting well enough to fight on the front lines and the scenes are loaded with dialog. There is very little action and the film gets bogged down by uneven pacing.

Fortunately, the movie is well made and well cast, which helps make up for the the plodding first half. Jennifer Lawrence gives a mostly emotionless, yet realistic performance of a war weary soldier who has had to turn off feelings in order to see the battle through. Jena Malone isn’t given much screen time, but her zany character portrayal of Johanna Mason is fun to watch. We also get one last performance by Phillip Seymour Hoffman in his final role as Plutarch Heavensbee.

Things finally ramp up in the second half, when Katniss, who is still at odds with the Rebel’s leader President Coin, decides to go rogue. Coin wants her more for propaganda pieces rather than as a weapon out on the battlefield, but being the strong-willed heroine everyone looks up to, she eventually joins the fight and leads a team through the Capitol that includes Gale and Peeta. Their mission: kill President Snow.

After a sequence of harrowing attacks brought on by the game makers and the loss of several on her team,  Katniss and Gale finally make it to the President’s mansion, just as the Rebels are making their final assault on the Capitol. The events that unfold thereafter cause Katniss to re-evaluate what she’s fighting for and ultimately leads her to a decision that may be surprising for those who haven’t read the books.

Like the three movies before it, Mockingjay Part 2 has many important political messages about tyrannical oppression, government overreach, poverty and starvation of the common people.  Though futuristic, many of us watching the movie will see some of the same issues present in our society today. Neither the books nor the movies offer a real solution to the problems the people of Panem face – their purpose is to serve as more of an awareness piece on what can happen when you live in a society where the government has all the control.

The ending isn’t perfect, but every story has to come to a conclusion at some point and while there are some bright spots at the end for our girl on fire, she’s still left to wrestle with how to shape the future generations and deal with life after the revolution.

 

Young Adult Dystopian Fiction: Coming to a Big and Small Screen Near You

Dystopian fiction is nothing new, but has seen a huge rise in popularity over the past few years with the success of Suzanne Collins’ bestselling YA series, The Hunger Games. And just like what the Twilight phenomenon did for the surging popularity of vampires and werewolves,  The Hunger Games is doing for dystopian fiction.

Many dystopian series are equally as popular with both the young adult and adult crowd and fill the shelves at your local library or bookstore. They’re also quickly making their way to the big and small screen with movies and TV shows in the works. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone –  movie studios and television networks have seen the success of previous book-to-screen adaptations and love to cash in on the built-in fan base that comes with a popular book series.

Here are just a few projects in the works that I’m most excited to see hit the big and small screen:

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Delirium, by Lauren Oliver.
Sequels: Pandemonium and Requiem (out March 5)

Set in a post-apocalyptic society that teaches love is a disease and forces everyone to undergo a surgical procedure on their 18th Birthday to rid them of the disease. Months before her procedure, Lena meets and falls in love with Alex, who opens her eyes to a life beyond the oppressive society she’s always known.

Delirium has been optioned by Fox, which has ordered a pilot episode for their network. Emma Roberts has been cast in the main role of Lena.

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Divergent, by Veronica Roth
Sequels: Insurgent and an untitled 3rd book, scheduled for release October 2013

Set in a futuristic dystopian society where people are sorted into four distinct population groups (called factions) based on their personality traits and an aptitude test each member must take when they turn sixteen. Following the test, each individual chooses a faction where they must live for the rest of their lives.  Unfortunately for Beatrice Prior, she displays dominant traits from three different factions. Her choice and a secret she keeps from everyone, help expose some very dark secrets in the not-so-perfect society  everyone believes they live in.

The film rights to Divergent, were bought by Summit Entertainment – they same studio behind the Twilight Saga. Shailene Woodley (The Descendants and The Secret Life of the American Teenager) has been cast as Beatrice and Kate Winslet is rumored to be playing a role in the film as well. Divergent has a 2014 release date.

7735333Matched, by Ally Condie
Sequels: Crossed and Reached

In Cassia’s world, everything is decided by the Society. Who you love and marry, where you work, and what you should believe. When Cassia reaches the age for her “Matching Ceremony” with her ideal mate, not one but two faces – Xander and Ky –  appear on the screen. The Society tells her it’s just a glitch – that she’s matched to  Xander, but seeds of doubt are planted by the mistake and feelings for both boys lead her to question her entire existence in a so-called perfect society.

The big screen version of Matched is in development by Disney, who purchased the rights to the entire trilogy before the books were even published.

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Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
Predecessor: The Hunger Games; Sequel: Mockingjay

Catching Fire picks up where The Hunger Games left off, with Katniss and Peta returning to their home of District 12 after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games. Things are not peaceful for long, though, as Katniss learns of a conspiracy revolving around District 13 – a district long thought to be wiped out by the Capitol. And in a cruel twist in the rules of the game, both Katniss and Peta are thrown back in arena for the 75th Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games was the third highest grossing movie of 2012 and one can expect that Catching Fire will do the same – or better – than its predecessor. Jennifer Lawrence returns for the role of Katniss Everdeen.

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The Selection, by Kiera Cass
Sequel: The Elite (out in April)

America Singer is one of thirty-five girls selected to leave a life of poverty and vie for the heart of Prince Maxon. Most girls would be thrilled at the opportunity to marry a prince and live a life of luxury in a palace, but not America – her heart belongs to another. But when she finally meets the prince, she begins to wonder if a life she never wanted might just be the best thing for her.

The Selection has had a tough time making it to the TV screen. The CW passed on the first pilot starring Amie Teegarden (Friday Night Lights). More recently, the network announced a new pilot is being shot for the 2013 fall season without Teegarden was  reprising her role as America. Who knows if the show will actually air, but the fact that the network was willing to re-shoot the pilot seems promising.

 

 

With the exception of the Hunger Games, I personally feel like these types of stories are better suited for television and it seems like a couple of networks agree. Character development and story lines can be cultivated better over a longer period of time and important plot lines need not be cut due to running time of a feature film. Movies make more money in the long run and as we all know, money is the driving force behind everything in Hollywood.