Saturday, November 28, 2015

THG: Mockingjay, Part 2 (movie review)

We're like people in the time of Charles Dickens, getting Oliver Twist or whatever in serial format. The episodes are not all collected in one novel yet.  Or at least I gather that's how it went with many of his printed works:  they came spread out over the months or even years.

Like Star Wars, these serialized spectacles come to be seen against the backdrop of one's own life.

I still remember my first Star Wars (the first ever), with the Brodheims on Long Island, all of us fresh from the Philippines, the younger generation heading for college, their family tradition being a Christmas Day movie (do I have that right?).

Mr. Brodheim, a holocaust survivor, hadn't known what to expect (he wasn't following the culture closely), and he wasn't prepared for a soap opera (a melodrama -- not implying a musical).  Was he thinking more a documentary about astronomy or something? -- at least this wasn't Wagner.

The Hunger Games remains interesting to me, a source of reflection.  Katniss is intuitively following the action and like the others is highly fatalistic about her role.  A sense of choice is lacking.  That kind of freedom is in short supply.

The tension between the districts, and the capital, drives a deadly serious game, a form of spectacle, which reminds us of our own role, as consumers of slickly produced broadcasts, filled with spin.

Our screens in this region have filled with relatively benign sports (non-mandatory viewing), mostly featuring an oblate (non-hexapent spherical) ball.  Yesterday (while I was in THG matinee) was the so-called Civil War, an annual event in Oregon, starring Oregon State University (Beavers) versus University of Oregon (Ducks).  Today it's Michigan State versus Ohio State (on right now, 2nd quarter).  Ducks and Ohio Buckeyes won against the Beavers and Wolverines respectively.

Our screens also fill with the violence of the ages (including our own).  On the fear-versus-longing axis, we're tilted towards fear, as the future has mostly been left blank by political leaders, but for some projected Mars adventure. We're afraid we might blow up or starve.

Civilians suffer at the hands of those with ordnance (landmines a lasting legacy). Producing killingry (a Bucky word) with the intent to abort human lives remains more profitable than producing livingry in the form of safe cities e.g. the people of Flint have been poisoned.  Food Not Bombs is still considered a subversive message in 2015, although NPR did focus on food waste recently, with its review of the new movie Just Eat It.

To Katniss, it's all personal i.e. her personal dynamics, high voltage and intense, mirror the war she's fighting.  Others are more caught up in a labyrinth they may not understand, or see differently.  She personifies even as she channels her world's global tensions.  Except I'm unclear on the history, not having read the books.  What was the basic issue anyway?  Lack of food?  I never got a good look at the globe.  That must be Earth?  But when?  I lack the backstory.

The ethics of dealing with "extras" i.e. of turning others into mere pawns in one's own brand of theater, is a core focus of this film.  Collateral damage is inflicted deliberately though perhaps counterproductively.  People will turn against their titular masters if they believe in the effectiveness of their supposed liberators.  What do their potential liberators say on television?

Turning civilians against their own leaders, or spreading mutiny in the ranks, may involve false flag operations, engaged in to manipulate public opinion.  THG is all about media wars, psychological parries and feints.  Snow and the Mockingjay are both spin doctors.  In that world, ethics has a lot to do with one's ability to solve puzzles.  Minus a strong ethical compass, paralysis (staying very still) may seem the better bet.

I might go so far as to suggest these movies are a study in precession: consequences that may be equal, in the sense of conserving angular momentum and inertia, but far from 180 degree opposite in the Newtonian sense of action + reaction.  Maybe split that into three (action + reaction + resultant) for more complexity, a needed leap if intending to play games, war or world, in some militarized theater.

A lot of unpredictability and butterfly effects influence any game worth watching.  Even chess has this element.  Sometimes only the impossible seems to happen, against all odds.