“You’re going to be the best dressed rebel in history.” If the first Hunger Games movie was a rerun of Battle Royale and the second was Rollerball, then this penultimate instalment is basically Broadcast News, or even Network – a spiky media satire about the making and marketing of a revolution that most definitely will be televised.
Having being hoisted out of the games by anti-government forces at the end of Catching Fire, Katniss Everdeen (a typically no-nonsense Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself being fashioned as a poster girl for the uprising – styled and manipulated by the underground in the same way that the Capitol once dolled her up for TV dismemberment. Clothed in combat-chic black, Katniss is directed to do her best Joan of Arc flag-waving act for the purpose of propaganda videos – or “propos” – to inspire the downtrodden people of Panem. As her new keepers assure her: “Everyone is going to want to kiss you, kill you, or be you.”
Necessarily lower on action (a couple of raids take the place of the former gladiatorial bloodshed) MJP1 is both less dramatically even and more explicitly didactic than its edgily violent predecessors. While some characters simply effect turncoat allegiances, the parallels between Donald Sutherland’s malignant President Snow and Julianne Moore’s rebel leader Alma Coin are made clear as both sides battle for supremacy of the airwaves. Meanwhile, the sub-Twilight three-way romance which has so far proved the series’ weakest link remains little more than multiplex window dressing; Katniss may demand that the rebels rescue dorky Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), but his primary role is to take part in horrifyingly attired on-air interviews (Stanley Tucci flashing his teeth) on behalf of his Capitol captors – contemporary world events lending awful prescience to this viral video dystopian future fantasy.
The movie’s real love affair is with Philip Seymour Hoffman (to whom it is dedicated), bringing both wit and gravitas to the role of gamesmaker-turned-Kingmaker Plutarch Heavensbee. Although it remains to be seen how the film-makers work around Hoffman’s untimely demise in Part 2, the puppet-master behind Katniss’s rebranding emerges from this first instalment as a fully rounded figure whose twinkling demeanour perfectly encapsulates the series’ arch attitude toward authority.
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