Saturday 13 June 2015

Films: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, and The Maze Runner (2014)

The third of four films based on Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay Part 1 continues the story of a future dystopia in which Katniss Everdeen has unwillingly become the figurehead in a rebellion against the established order represented by President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

This film suffers from the same problem as the last: it has neither a beginning nor an ending, being merely a continuation of the story, so is lacking in dramatic structure. It does get away from the Hunger Games format for the first time, to focus on the rebellion now being led by District 13, a militarised society separate from Panem (the rest of the country). Katniss has a largely passive role, acting as the focus for inspirational propaganda films while suffering from watching her love interest from the previous films being used as a mouthpiece for President Snow. Frankly not a lot happens, but the film was just interesting enough to hold my attention so I expect I'll see the final episode in due course.

Incidentally, there is as usual no help for viewers whose memories of the previous film have faded over the past year – the movie plunges straight into the action and I was baffled and confused by it at first. I find it very odd that film sequels normally provide no recap of previous events to refresh the memory, while TV series with only one week between episodes frequently do (although some don't bother even at the start of a new season), and I've seen non-fiction TV programmes which give a recap after each advert break! Could there please be some common sense applied here? The value of recaps is directly linked to the length of time since the previous episode: after one week you really shouldn't need one – after one year you certainly do.


The Maze Runner is another "young adult" film although probably appealing to a different, more male, demographic. It is based on the eponymous 2009 novel by James Dashner.

A young man, Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) regains consciousness with no memory of who or where he is. He finds himself in a group of other male adolescents, all of whom have arrived in the same way. They are living in the Glade; a large enclosure, big enough to support buildings, crops and trees, but surrounded by massive, impenetrable and unclimbable concrete walls. During each day a section of wall opens to allow exploration of the enormous maze of similar walls which lies beyond it; but the walls keep reconfiguring themselves making it impossible to learn a way out. And no-one caught in the maze when the opening closes at nightfall is ever seen again, but the sounds of monsters – Greivers – can be heard roaming the maze.

Thomas is not satisfied to accept the status quo and joins the Maze Runners, the fastest and fittest among the group, who venture into the maze each day to try to find a way through it. Meanwhile, the situation of the adolescents becomes increasingly perilous as the rules which have governed their lives begin to change, leading to conflict within the group.

This is a better film than I had expected: more original, darker in tone and more gripping than most YA fare, with the gradual unravelling of the mystery at the heart of it intriguing adults as much as the target audience. While this particular episode ends with the film, there is clearly much more to be resolved with the conclusion blatantly teeing up a sequel.  So it's just as well that the film was a commercial success, with the next episode due to hit the cinema screens in the autumn. I will be looking forward to it with rather more interest than I am to the final part of The Hunger Games.


Fred said...


Have you read the novel(s)?

I read _The Hunger Games_ and saw the film but was not interested enough to go on with the series.

I also read and watched the earlier Japanese version titled _Battle Royale_ and thought that was much darker than _THG_. _BR_ also has a sequel that has the survivors of the first boo/film engaged in a revolution against the Japanese government. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Koushun Takami.

I did two brief commentaries about THG and BR.

Anthony G Williams said...

No Fred, I haven't read any of the books (not the Maze Runner either).