Mockingjay and the Price of Violence in Popular Fiction

November 24, 2014 8:55 PM

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This Friday, Mockingjay: Part 1 -- the third film in the cinematic tetralogy based on Suzanne Collins' trio of dystopian Young Adult novels, and the first based on that trilogy's concluding chapter -- premiered in theaters around the United States. It's a film that brings with it quite a bit of anticipation and conversation, be it about the subject matter, the fidelity of the adaptation, or the decision to divide the book upon which it is based into two installments. Already, the film is being greeted with mixed opinions. Some admire it as a smart and graceful take on a complicated concluding chapter, others have called it dull or aimless, the division of the text robbing the film of any real tangible through line. I, for one, fall into the former group. For me, Mockingjay: Part 1 (which I will call only Mockingjay from here on out, for the sake of brevity) is a sharp and affecting adaptation -- the best of its series, thus far, and a vast improvement over what seemed like an overstuffed conclusion to Collins' books. It's a film that is, in turn, both contemplative and thrilling, and one that unostentatiously demonstrates the gifts of its cast from the always magnificent Jennifer Lawrence to the understated and authoritarian Julianne Moore. It's also a film that, unlike any other book or film in its genre, seems genuinely interested with the cost of its violence: a film committed to the implication of its scope in opposition to easy gestures of heroism or martyrdom.

In discussing these questions of cost and implication, the easiest point of comparison for Mockingjay is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, another two-part adaptation of the concluding chapter to a well-lauded series of popular (potentially Young Adult) fiction. Of course, being that the final f...

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