On Saturday I got together with a bunch of great Twitter folks to see Mockingjay, Part 1. If you haven’t seen it yet (or read the books), I suggest that you skip this post because some of the things I want to talk about are a bit spoiler-y.
First, let me just say that the movie was fantastic. As with all the adaptations of these books, they’ve done an exceptional job of translating books that spend large swaths of time in Katniss’ head onto the big screen. Following the recent trend, they chose to split the last book into two movies and while I know a lot of people felt that was simply to make more money, I think the movie really benefitted from the split. It allowed them to spend the time necessary to do the material justice.
There were several things that stood out for me. First, I remember when I wrote about Catching Fire, I said I was sad that it would be the last we saw of Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket since she’s only mentioned in passing in the third book. Well, to my delight, Effie was fully present in Mockingjay, Part 1. Instead of having Katniss’ prep team in District 13 as they had been in the book, they gave us Effie. And she was magnificient. Elizabeth Banks is so amazing in this role. She gives Effie so much depth. It makes sense from a movie-making standpoint to do this – the prep team barely has any lines in the previous two films and unless you’ve read the books you won’t even know their names. Much better, narratively, to replace them with Effie who at this point is a fully fledged main character.
Second, Katniss sang. And Jennifer Lawrence did it. And it’s haunting and amazing.
This song is a major plot point in the book. This article explains how important so go read that. But also, for me, I didn’t quite ‘get’ this song while reading the book. As lyrics, it didn’t flow without music and I just didn’t get the emotional impact of it.
Then, Jennifer Lawrence started to sing and I started to get chills. The song has a HUGE emotional impact that didn’t really come home to me until I saw it performed.
The movie also solidified for me some of the reasons I never really warmed to Gale, either in the books or in the movies. He’s kind of a dick to Katniss and it only becomes more prominent the further into the story we get. From the very beginning, he doesn’t just feel protective of Katniss, it seems like he feels he owns her in a way. Like he’s just waiting for her to get old enough so they can be a couple. When she plays up the romance with Peeta in the Games, Gale gets so petulant. Even when she explains it to him, he can’t seem to get over it. In Mockingjay, when Katniss kisses Gale, his only response was “I knew you’d do that because I’m in pain. Don’t worry, it’ll pass.” Basically, nothing Katniss does is really ever the right thing as far as Gale is concerned. He never seems able to accept just how messed up Katniss is because of the Games.
I’ve said this ever since I read the books, but the whole love triangle thing – there was never anyone else for Katniss but Peeta after those first games. Not because their romance was forced upon them by the Capitol but because Peeta was in the games twice, just like Katniss. He understood as no one but another Victor could understand what it cost to survive the games. Victors aren’t free; they don’t live in luxury. They are slaves of the Capitol and any semblance of happiness they might carve out for themselves only meant more targets for the Capitol. Gale never understood that and he was a jerk to Katniss as a result.
The movie ended on the logical split point of the book and I expected it. They rescue Peeta and the other Victors, Peeta tries to strangle Katniss, we discover he’s been Hijacked. Fade to black. The back half of the book mostly takes place outside of District 13 so ending Part 1 at this point makes a lot of sense. Also, it gave them a dramatic climax (the rescue/the strangling) to end the film with. They did add some things into the movie that were not in the book that I think clarify the reasons the Capitol tortured Peeta in the way that they did. They turned Katniss into his enemy then set him loose to kill her. Seeing as Suzanne Collins worked closely with the screenwriting team, I can only assume this was motivation that went unstated in the books.
So, all of this rambling to say that Mockingjay, Part 1 was amazing and you should see it. I wish they weren’t waiting a full year to release Part 2 but alas, not until next November. Once the final film is released on blu ray, I’m gonna marathon those suckers. Can’t wait!