If you’re anything like me, you approach movie adaptations of novels hesitantly. So many movies have butchered the source material, left out much-loved characters or plot points, or seemingly ignored most of the source material entirely.
Not so with the Hunger Games franchise. I remember some things missing from the first movie that I really would have liked to see on-screen, and possibly a few stray quotes and small scenes from Catching Fire that I was sad to see didn’t appear on the big screen. Overall, though, I think that the first two movies were pretty damn solid. So last night, I went to see Mockingjay (or, as they insist on titling it, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1), fully expecting another fairly faithful adaptation.
I was not disappointed. Or rather, I was disappointed, but only because of a minor complaint I had that was more to do with winning a bet than any actual dissatisfaction with the movie. So I’ve decided to discuss some of the points I liked from the movie (whether they were originally in the book or not).
So beware, readers: Here there be spoilers! Don’t read the rest of the post if you haven’t seen the movie or if you want to avoid spoilers before you see the movie. If you’ve seen it and/or don’t care about spoilers, read on!
First off, I loved the beginning. Katniss’ opening lines. They’re almost word-for-word lifted from part of the book, which reads:
“My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am seventeen years old. My home is District 12. I was in the Hunger Games. I escaped.”
I’m not sure how well these first thirty seconds or so will be received by people who haven’t read the book, because I’m not sure how well people will respond to such a jarring intro. This is not Katniss hunting in the woods, not Katniss walking through a serene forest surrounded by animals…there’s nothing reassuring going on, and nothing to cling to. Katniss is broken. And I love that they chose to make that abundantly clear in the first moments of the film. Let there be no mistake that the Hunger Games changes people. Especially when you’ve been through them twice, and ended up losing both your home and a boy you (don’t necessarily admit you) love in the process. I mean, in the first moments we see Katniss trying to reassure herself of who, exactly, she is, and being forcibly detained and sedated by District 13 medical staff. She’s having a rough time, and we see that Finnick isn’t faring much better. That means that right out of the gate, two of our leads are established as very clearly Not Okay. It’s definitely unusual for a movie to essentially take main characters out of the action like that.
And make no mistake, Katniss is out of most of the action in this installment. That’s not to say she’s not important, but as those of you who’ve read the books know, the first half of Mockingjay is when Katniss is in little to no position to do very much. Part of that is due to President Coin and others’ determination to keep her safe and sound (wouldn’t want to lose their Mockingjay), and part is due to Katniss’s own trauma. But the movie still gets its fill of action sequences, which brings me to something else I really enjoyed about the movie: The Rebellion.
I’ll admit, it’s been a while since I read Mockingjay (and I am not too eager to re-read it. Poor Finnick. Poor everyone.), but I don’t remember a whole lot of rebellion coverage in the book. The movie lets us see what’s happening in the other districts. We see lumberjacks gleefully scurry up trees and blow up Peacekeepers, while screaming, “If we burn, you burn with us!” (echoing, of course, Katniss’s words from one of the propos). We see a montage that I personally loved of people taking up Katniss’s “Hanging Tree” song (which was also used in a propo, edited together with some heartbreaking footage), and as the song plays, we see another major attack on the government of Panem. I liked that. A lot.
And now, a bit on Peeta. Of course, I like Peeta. I like that he’s a male lead who isn’t too dominant, and also isn’t really traditionally “masculine” in the way that, say, Gale is. He’s the baker boy, the sentimental, gentle one. But in Mockingjay, we see Peeta breaking down. In a terrible, heart-wrenching way. It was well-done, and in fact, the last shot of the movie is of a tortured, hijacked Peeta, struggling to free himself from the bonds intended to protect Katniss from him, as well as him from himself. This is where my minor complaint of the film comes in, though. I wanted the movie to end with Peeta choking Katniss. Like, I’m talking Katniss goes in to see him, he lunges for her (I see this as being filmed from Katniss’s POV), and just as his hands close around her (our) throat, BAM. Blackout, end of movie. Confuse the hell out of those who haven’t read the book, and leave both book-readers and non-book-readers alike at the edge of their seats, waiting for Part 2.
The filmmakers are less sadistic than I am, apparently. They added a few extra minutes, explaining what the hell Peeta’s problem is. In the future, though, I’m pretty sure I’m going to pretend that part doesn’t exist. The fakeout-blackout before said explanation is where my mind officially ends the movie.
As a sidenote, while watching the movie, something occurred to me. Prim refused to go to the bomb shelter in District 13 without going and getting Buttercup. She said that she wouldn’t be able to live with herself (or something to that effect) if she left Buttercup alone. Did she forget that she didn’t stop to grab the cat before the entirety of District 12 was bombed into oblivion? Like, you left the cat to die once already; would it really hurt you so much to do it again? Prim is an odd duck sometimes.
*The small change in lyrics, if you’ve listened to the recording floating around Youtube of Jennifer Lawrence’s rendition, is explained in-movie, by the way, if that’s been bugging you
This has been a slightly-disjointed post about Mockingjay Part 1.