I am a big fan of Stephanie Collins’ Hunger Games series. You know that bit of ‘What If’ wishfulness that asks what book(s) do you wish you could go back and read again for the first time? For me there are many, but this series is definitely one of them. I remember when I picked up the first one, I had heard quite a bit of hype and read it on the off chance it was actually as good as many had said. I have read a lot of Young Adult books in the same vein, the dystopian and the love triangles, with some being more successful than others. But with the Hunger Games books, Collins had me from the very beginning. I’m a repeat reader and I’ve happily binged on this series several times.
As a reader, it can be quite difficult to venture into the movie theatre to see what has been done with the characters and scenes we have grown to love. Even with books we aren’t as invested in, we risk disappointment and frustration with casting, translation of the page to the screen and overall imagining of a world we have already ourselves envisioned.
With the first two movies, I was so impressed with the casting, the world they built and the faithfulness to the books.
Seeing the choice then to split the last book into two parts, I started to feel nervous. Were the creators of the movie series losing sight of the story and just bowing down to the almighty dollar? Would they just pad it with filler to make two movies work? Would I be left unhappy with the end to Part 1 when I have to wait so long for Part 2?
I saw Mockingjay Part 1 today and I am happy to tell you that I was not the least bit disappointed! In fact, this might be the best movie in this series of really well done movies so far.
Again they have continued with great casting of characters we care about. I love Julienne Moore as Coin, though she isn’t want I pictured. But this has happened time and again with this series. Woody Harrelson as Haymitch wasn’t what I pictured, but so perfect. Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch? Never crossed my mind, but he is great in this role. (I thought the dedication of the movie to him was lovely, by the way.) Katniss’s camera crew, led by Natalie Dormer’s Cressida all seem spot on casting and I’m pleased with the choice for Boggs (Mahershala Ali). And is it odd to say that the cat seems well cast too? 🙂 Because I love that the scruffy, fluffy, resilient cat keeps cropping up.
But what I think makes this movie so successful is that Collins has such rich and translatable material in her books to begin with, so pulling key scenes and dialogue straight from the books really works.
“And that, ladies and gentleman, is how a revolution dies”
Haymitch’s reaction to Katniss’s staged speech making is perfect in the book and perfect in the movie. Collins, having written for TV, has a talent for writing what works great on the page but also really sings on the screen. When Katniss goes to District 8 & gives a blistering speech, it is greatness when read, but delivered on film, by the talented Jennifer Lawrence no less, amid the smoke and fire and special effects, it is even more powerful.
Yes, the screenwriters and directors did have space to fill in splitting this one book into two movies, but it did not feel like filler for filler’s sake. I liked seeing the action in the districts. I liked seeing the effect the propos had on those watching in the districts. I liked that it wasn’t about just District 13 or some arena, but felt like the broader world of Panem. I liked that they were still able to put a lot of the details from the book in though, so it did not feel like too much of a divergence from the book. It felt like they were just adding a bit more color to an already vivid picture. But just enough.
And while they may have tweaked it a bit, I was also happy to see them get Peeta’s “Always” promise to Katniss in the movie. I was worried how this part of the movie would work with so little Peeta, but they made the scenes with him very strong.
Was the movie perfect? No, probably not, but they more than satisfied this reader, and that, for me, is high praise.
Now I just gotta wait for Mockingjay Part 2! In the meantime, I just may need to see this a few more times and I am definitely due now for another reading of the books.
Have a great week everyone!