I think it’s fairly safe to talk openly about this film now that it’s been out for a while, but if you haven’t seen it and care about spoilers, this is where I’m going to tell you to move along and read something else.
I’m very clearly a huge fan of The Hunger Games franchise. I feel that I relate to Katniss more than any other fictional character I’ve ever seen on screen or read about. Which is saying a lot because I grew up wanting to be Anne of Green Gables and my life is almost identical to Jo March’s and I’ve been called Hermione by various parties across the globe for years.
But when I read The Hunger Games, sometimes I felt like I was actually reading my journal. Minus the poverty and killing, of course. The way Katniss processes things was eerily familiar.
As such, it’s really hard for me to judge Hunger Games films through the film critic’s lens. I can give you two things that I felt needed improvement in this film.
- Dialogue. I really struggled to believe some of the lines delivered, especially by Plutarch and Katniss. And I’m not going to blame the acting because Philip and Jennifer messing it up? Come on. It had to be in the writing or directing somewhere. My guess is they were trying to lighten up the script or gain more empathy from the audience or something, because some lines…I just squinted at the screen thinking…really? That’s the vocabulary/emotion/rhetoric you chose there? One example is the scene where Prim wakes up after Katniss has had a nightmare and they chat in bed for a moment. The words are the same as the book, almost exactly, but the timing and delivery lost all the poignancy that needed to be there. This only happened maybe three times but it was noticeable enough.
- Speaking of the poignancy that needed to be there, there was not nearly enough Prim. Or Finnick.Knowing how we should feel about Prim by the end of the next film, there was definitely not enough set up in this film for that. In the previous two films, there wasn’t really time for that set-up because the story takes Katniss away from Prim so early. Finally in this film, there could’ve been PLENTY of Katniss-Prim time and they totally blew it. There is a chance for them to make it up in the next film, so I hope they do. The same with Finnick, but I think there will definitely be more Finnick time in the next film so I’m more okay with it (thank goodness, because Sam Claflin…mmmm…).
Now, this film was incredibly close to the book, but here are the two major differences and here are my thoughts on them:
- Effie Yes. Yes, yes, yes. The previous films did not build up the relationship between Katniss and her prep team that is present in the books, so it made complete sense to cut them out of this film and use Effie in their place, a character they have developed and people have grown to love. Completely pleased with this decision. Elizabeth Banks is utterly brilliant and I think the way they’ve developed her character brings something to Team Katniss that would’ve been sadly missing if they’d stuck to the prep team from the book.
- The BombingIn the book, this scene is a lot more calm and relatively harmless. The main point of it was to be stuck in the basement with the cat, and for Katniss to realize that Snow is torturing Peeta to punish her, and for her to have that fantastic conversation with Finnick. All of that still happens in the film, so I’m totally okay with them speeding this scene up and making it more intense. Who really wanted to watch everyone get safely to the shelter before the bombs even started dropping? Boring, and not cinematically wise.
Okay, now here are some other feelings I have:
- People claiming that Mockingjay Part 1 is like a soap opera, or that it was just story and not enough pay-off: back down. Granted, if you haven’t read the books, this film probably sucked to watch because it is tons of set up, but you will get an entire film of pay-off next year. However, you all knew it was just one part of a bigger story, hence the Part 1. So if you were disappointed, you only have yourself to blame, because you could’ve easily waited until next year to see if just before Part 2 comes out if you really needed the pay-off so instantly.
- If you’re one of the people feeling like Katniss’s love for Peeta is disproportionate, you can back down, too. Let me remind you of a key scene in Catching Fire: (this is not the right moment in the film for that quote but the quote is what’s important.) Here, Katniss realizes a few things. First, the sincerity and depth of Peeta’s feelings for her. Second, how hard Peeta has worked to save her. Third, how much she respects and appreciates him for that. Fourth, that that respect and appreciation stirs in her a desire a) be better herself and b) save him in return. That’s called love. So once she realizes this, and everyone else slowly realizes it as well, Peeta becomes the key. She will stop at nothing to have him safe. Not even with her, just safe. And those against her will stop at nothing to destroy him, thereby destroying her. Enter an entire plotline of Mockingjay.
And that’s about it. I saw the film twice in one week. That’s really all you need to know.