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*This is not a spoiler free discussion about the movie. I will be talking about ALL THE THINGS.*
At least for me, Mockingjay- Part 1 was always going to be the toughest Hunger Games film to pull off, since the story that it covers is the part of the books that I’m the least fond of. That being said, I loved it, and it may even enhance the book for me the next time I read it. (Did Mockingjay absolutely need to be two films. No, and of course they would have found a way to do it in one if splitting the last book in a series into two films wasn’t the new trend. However, I’m glad for it, because the more Hunger Games the better for me, and we get another whole year of trailers and cast interviews and premieres.)
I’ve seen the movie three times at this point, and I think I’ve thought on it enough to somewhat organize my thoughts about it. There’s no way I can touch on everything, because there are so many things happening, and I love this series so much I could talk about it infinitely. But I’ll try my best.
The structure and pacing of the movie is interesting, as it doesn’t follow the normal pattern of having a clear beginning, middle, and end. It starts off with Katniss agreeing and trying to fulfill her new obligations as the Mockingjay, and ends with Peeta, Katniss, and Johanna being rescued from the Capitol and the aftermath, but the middle is much less defined. Things just kind of slowly unfold, and some things aren’t going to pay off until Part 2. After only a few days in the theater, so far the fan reactions to the movie that I’ve seen have been extremely positive. So let’s dive right in, and (in no particular order) talk about some of the fans’ favorite moments and lingering questions from the movie.
Jennifer Lawrence is amazing and she carries this movie like it’s nothing. And since she’s in almost every scene, it’s hard to pick out highlights, but I loved the scene where she sang “The Hanging Tree.” Katniss being a beautiful singer was a larger part of the books, and has only been mentioned in the movies way back in the cave scene in The Hunger Games. Jennifer Lawrence said she was so nervous about it and hasn’t been able to watch it, but I thought she sounded great. She was also particularly fantastic when Katniss loses it realizing that President Snow knows about the rescue mission and that both Peeta and Gale could die in the Capitol. Jen has so much heavy stuff to do in these movies and she pulls it off every time.
One of my nitpicks about the movie is that I would have liked more Finnick. He and Katniss have more interaction in the book, and we would have gotten more of his unhinged state of mind. In the first scene of the movie, he tells Katniss that along with Peeta and Johanna, the Capitol also took his love Annie and says, “I wish she was dead. I wish they were all dead and we were too.” So yeah, things are bad.
I loved the scene between Finnick and Katniss during the bombing of District 13 where Finnick tells Katniss that at first he thought Katniss pretended to love Peeta as a strategy, but discovered that she actually loved him when his heart stopped during the Quarter Quell. He admitted he didn’t know in what way, and that Katniss herself might not even know, but that she definitely loves him. They’re the only people in 13 who know what the other is going through, and this scene also included a verbatim line from the book, when Finnick says, “It takes ten times as long to put yourself back together as it does to fall apart.”
I wish I could say that the scene where Finnick talks about what he went through in the Capitol after he won the Games is the worst thing we’ll see happen to him, but we all know that’s not true and I can’t even talk about it and I need to move on.
It was lovely to see more of Liam Hemsworth’s pretty face. Gale hasn’t had a ton of screen time in the past two movies, and as he now that he has more time to do things in Mockingjay he begins to turn into a soldier, evidenced by things like telling the propo team about the people he tried to save during the bombing of District 12 and volunteering to go on the mission to save Peeta and the others.
The other piece of his story revolves around his deteriorating relationship with Katniss. The two of them especially differ on the way they view Peeta’s interviews with Caesar Flickerman. Gale starts out sympathetic, but soon becomes disgusted and settles on the viewpoint that Peeta is a coward for saying the things he says. Katniss is more haunted by the thought of what they might be doing to him and eventually consumed with guilt and panic that Peeta is being tortured to punish Katniss for being the Mockingjay. Anyone who has read the book knows that this movie was just planting the seeds, and that Gale’s viewpoint that some things, morally ambiguous as they may be, need to be done for the greater good in times of war is going to have enormous repercussions in Part 2.
Boggs! I loved Boggs in the books, but I didn’t have anyone in particular in mind to play him. I loved the actor they chose (Mahershala Ali), he was every bit the stoic military man who exuded that take charge kind of attitude.
I thought the way President Coin evolved in Part 1 was very subtle. Both she and District 13 as a whole didn’t seem as sinister as they did in the book, but were making their way there at the end of the movie. She starts off working well with Plutarch- I loved that they dedicated the film to Philip Seymour Hoffman 🙁 – and eventually agrees to Katniss’ demand to save Peeta and the other victors (side note: the fact that she left “I kill Snow” off her list of demands was odd. Are they saving that for Part 2? Is there some other reason they decided not to include that one? Curious.) But by the end she’s starting to play into the theme of the moral grey area of war. She’s extremely pleased that she has what she believes to be the upper hand and seems to be enjoying the increased power. The creepy chants of the District 13 residents during her last speech are enough to leave the audience feeling very disconcerted about where things are going.
One of the best things about the movies is that we get to see things that occur outside of Katniss’ point of view. The scenes of rebellion in the districts were such a fabulous addition. Katniss singing “The Hanging Tree” and having it transition into the song of the rebels as they blow up the dam in District 5 was such a solid way to show the affect that the Mockingjay is having on the revolution.
I know some people are wary of big changes in adaptations, but putting Effie in Distirct 13 was the perfect choice. Katniss’ Capitol prep team hasn’t had a big role in the films, so putting them in the movie just because that’s the way it is in the book would have felt jarring. Elizabeth Banks is so good, and we really see how much Effie cares for Katniss. She and Haymitch really take care of her, in their own way (also, Woody Harrleson is a treasure and is perfect always).
Cressida and her team was exactly how I pictured them, especially the little packs on the back of the cameramen that make them look like beetles. Plus as an added bonus, they mentioned that Pollux was an Avox, something that hasn’t been touched on in the movies before.
Snow is as terrible as always, there’s really nothing new here. Thanks to Finnick’s propo at the end of the movie, viewers who haven’t read the book learned about his past. I love the way Donald Sutherland plays him, he’s not just a leader taking down an adversary in order to maintain power. He’s certain that he’ll be victorious, but he seems so delighted by the challenge. It’s like a chess game. He even has a line where he says, “Moves and countermoves.”
I especially loved the callback to his granddaughter from Catching Fire. When Snow makes his speech to Panem about the Mockingjay symbol being forbidden, his granddaughter starts to take out the braid that we saw her wear in the last movie.
At the end of the movie there is actually a nice parallel between Snow and Coin. Each thinks they have the upper hand: Snow believing that a hijacked Peeta will kill Katniss, and Coin believing that Katniss’ role as the Mockingjay has been successful enough that the tide is turning in the rebels’ favor. Each leader feels some sense of victory, but it’s at the expense of both Peeta (who Snow used as his weapon) and Katniss (who Coin used as hers). The quality that makes both Snow and Coin so scary isn’t the fact that they’re so detached from humanity, it’s that they actually understand human nature perfectly and use that understanding to manipulate people to get the outcome that they want.
Peeta goes through such a huge change in Mockingjay- Part 1 and I am so impressed with how Josh Hutcherson played it. I’ve seen many reviews praising him in this one, and I have to say I agree. It could have easily been way too over the top, but in each sit down Peeta had with Cesar there were subtle changes in his voice and demeanor that made him seem slightly worse. The scene where Peeta and Katniss are reunited after his rescue and he tries to strangle her was so brutal, and a shot of a fully hijacked Peeta strapped down to a bed and violently thrashing around was such a jarring way to end the movie. Props to you, cutie pie. I look forward to you destroying me even further in Part 2.
(Speaking of the ending: last week I theorized what it might be. While at the time I was kind of rooting for the movie to end right as Peeta was strangling Katniss, in the moment I would have freaked out if that’s where it really ended. In my theater, after Boggs knocks out Peeta and it cut to black, there was a lot of, “No. NO.” and then a sigh of relief and a lot of “Thank God” when the movie continued on. Not that the actual ending was any less upsetting. Poor Katniss in her neck brace sees Peeta absolutely destroyed, strapped to a bed and thrashing around, obviously in a tremendous amount of pain.)
One of my favorite moments was the “redo” of a scene from Catching Fire. When Katniss wakes up from a nightmare in District 13, Peeta runs into her room like he did on the train during the Victory Tour. They share the same dialogue, where Katniss asks Peeta, “Stay with me?” and Peeta climbs into bed with her and replies “Always.” I squealed and squeezed my friend’s arm and I’m pretty sure she was supremely embarrassed to have ever become friends with me.
Final thoughts on Peeta: Remember in The Hunger Games when Peeta said all of this about the Capitol:
and how that’s exactly what they ended up doing to him in this movie?!
Somebody should do a study on whether or not Hunger Games fans are more masochistic than other people. We love this story that is so upsetting and sad. Many fans’ sentiments at the end of this movie the sentiment seemed to be “OMG that ripped my heart out, but I loved it and I can’t wait until Part 2.” If we thought this one was bad, we’re going to be absolutely ruined after next year…
What did you think of Mockingjay- Part 1? Favorite moments? Things you wish they would have done differently? THOUGHTS ABOUT PEETA?! Seriously, someone talk to me about Peeta, I’m still not okay.