Monday, December 14, 2015

Movie Monday: Mockingjay - Part 2

Mockingjay - Part 2
When opportunity arises, I feature Movie Monday. I recognize few people have the time or desire to read the amount I do, especially when it comes to the 100 Best Novels list. Luckily, Hollywood loves adapting a classic and I love a good story in any form.

Film Title: Mockingjay - Part 2

Book Title: Mockingjay
Release Year: 2015

Summary: The war between Districts and Capitol comes to a dramatic, casualty-ridden conclusion with Katniss Everdeen at its very center.

What I Thought: Kevin was gracious enough to take me to see this in the theatre for date night a few weeks ago. As I had expressed to him, writing your thesis on The Hunger Games means you have to see all the movies on the big screen. Normally, we avoid going to the movies, opting for Netflix or Redbox several months later. It's easier and way cheaper and we do not mind having to wait several months to see movies...with the exception of me during Oscar season; I get a little antsy then.

All that to say, The Hunger Games movies are the only films we have consistently shelled out $20+ to see in theaters over the past four years. It's almost become a little tradition. Now that they are done, it may be a long time before we see another movie in that format (Star Wars is tempting me, but it takes a lot to tempt Kevin enough to spend money at the movies). So, when two rotten little junior high age children were talking and laughing and making jokes in the row in front of us for the first twenty minutes of the movies, you better believe they got a piece of my mind. No one was going to ruin my chance to enjoy this movie fully, especially not after we paid $20 to get in and another $5 on unbuttered popcorn (a detail which leant to some strong feelings about the theatre's management - who doesn't butter popcorn??). Thankfully, they shut right up after one warning and we enjoyed the rest of the movie in relative peace. Yep. We're those people and not ashamed of it, either.

You're probably really ready for me to talk about the actual movie at this point, aren't you?

It was a great film. Entertaining, engaging, emotional (at times)...everything a studio exec dreams of. It clarified some of the most confusing moments of the book including (SPOILER ALERT) the deaths of both Prim and Coin. The lizard mutts in the sewers were both way scarier and less ridiculous than I had imagined them; not a hard task considering I had pictured them as Mario Brothers style dinosaurs in my head. If you were viewing this as a film unassociated with a book series or even its cinematic predecessors, there were very few things about which you could complain. It hits nearly every mark on the "How to Make a Blockbuster" checklist.

The thing is, though, this is not a stand-alone film conceived by a screen writer looking to get into the good graces of the industry's higher ups. Collins' work carries bigger messages and morals than are portrayed on the screen. 

I am on record all over this blog complaining about the lack of food symbolism throughout the film adaptations. I am not going to rehash my whole argument here. I will leave the words to my sweet husband who, upon the film's ending, stated, "If they had just called it 'The Games,' it would have made more sense." He, too, recognized the lack of "hunger" symbolism on screen. I thought his point was perfect. If Collins had never entitled the series or the horrific event "The Hunger Games," then I would have no complaint. Instead, in the end, even with Katniss' final monologue, the 'hunger' seems to be a place holder serving no purpose in the title. I was not surprised by this, but still disappointed, particularly since the symbolism of food is so rich in the series. In this movie, Katniss does not try to starve herself, she and Peeta do not share a can of lamb stew, the citizens of the Capitol are not portrayed as starving and desperate. The only moment food is really even mentioned is when Peeta recalls back to when he burned the bread for Katniss. I was thankful to at least see that moment, but there could have been so much more.

Because I had long ago come to terms with the lack of food symbolism in the movies, I think my greater disappointment was seeing the emotional landscape of this film. In the books, the whole point of the books really, Collins continually reiterates the message that war destroys. War has no redemption and never allows for full healing. Katniss is so broken in the books and so much of the message hinges around her brokenness. In the film, however, she comes across almost robotic through most of the movie. She is simply too pulled together, even in the end. Clearly, this is a directorial choice. Jennifer Lawrence does get one scene in which she is allowed to unleash Katniss' emotion (when Buttercup returns) and in that moment it is evident why this woman has an Oscar and so unclear why they did not allow her to show that side of Katniss throughout the film as is seen in the book. (I'm more than happy to share credit for these specific thoughts with the author of this article. It's a long one, but so good.)

In that same vein, I felt the ending was too clean. It was not perfectly clean and polished, but still more so than I would have liked to see. I wanted Katniss to share that beautiful line about watching her children dance in the meadow/graveyard, and that was left out. I get that Hollywood wanted a nice, happy-ish ending, but it still felt too smooth to me. I truly believe that Katniss and crew had moments of happy and times of joy, but were always haunted by their war-time experiences. That is not expressed well enough on film.

You can also tell that the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman directly impacted the last half of the film. When he died, the movie still had two more weeks of shooting, I believe, and so his presence is sorely missed in some key moments. Of course, this is not the fault of the production staff, nor something they had any control over or easy way to fix. Still, his absence is a sad reminder and a distinctive gap in the storytelling. 

As I have said before, Mockingjay has a very different feel from the rest of the series, for good reason, I believe. That holds true on screen. There is no denying that this is a well-made, well-acted, well-written movie. I greatly enjoyed it. Props to those involved in the adaptation for taking such a popular series and doing it so well on screen. No film adaptation is perfect, and we readers will always have complaints (sorry, not sorry). In the end, though, I think this series was brought to life with beauty, power, and most of the depth and gravitas it deserved.

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Watch: Most definitely

A Reduced Review: It's not perfect, but Mockingjay - Part 2 is a very well made conclusion to the film adaptations of this popular series. 


  1. I've seen the 4 movies at the theater and loved them all - without reading the books. At first I was going to go back and read them but I just love the movies so much that I didn't want that to change. I'm a coward. And I'm a coward when it comes to warning annoying theater goers. I make lots of noises and give lots of dirty looks but haven't told anyone to be quiet. Yet :)

    1. You should definitely read the books! If you enjoyed the movies, I think you'll enjoy the books even more. There's more depth and exploration of the characters, but the plot is pretty spot on.
      And, yes, I'm usually a coward when it comes to telling off disruptive people, too, but that day I just could not deal! Haha.
      Thanks for your comment!

  2. I totally had to give a rowdy bunch of high schoolers a piece of my mind during Part 1! I was all, "I paid my money to see this and you are ruining the movie for everyone!"

    I wish the mutts were more lizard like, because everything is a zombie these days. And the whole scene just triggered terrifying flashbacks to the Scorch Trials movie, which was so scary! And YES to everything you said. It had been years since I read the book so I wasn't doing a scene by scene comparison (which is nice because I drive myself nuts) and was able to enjoy the film for what it was. I did remember last minute what happened at the execution and was pumped for Katniss' choice.

    I'm sad that nobody mourned Finnick in the movie. I love Finnick. After seeing the movie I wanted to get another animal just so I could name it Finnick. I'm thinking I'm going to go with a fish, which is so fitting, obviously.

    I've always kind of thought Katniss was a little too pulled together in the movies. I think that might be why I appreciate movie-Johanna so much more. Seeing this movie did make me want to read the book, if only to remember what Katniss and Peeta named their kids.

    1. Great thoughts. I especially agree that it was sad no one mourned Finnick. Even in the end when we realize Annie has a baby, it's so brushed over. Finnick the Fish would be a lovely way to remedy the situation yourself!

      I LOVE movie Johanna. I really think she nailed the bitterness the character exemplifies so well. I needed more of that from Katniss. Not necessarily bitterness, just brokenness.

      I couldn't remember the names either, so I hit Google. Apparently, they were not mentioned in the books either, but Collins has publicly stated they are Willow and Rye.