Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

* This post contains spoilers of both the book and film. I am assuming you have either read the book or seen the film.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is based on the second half of the novel “Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.  Mockingjay Part 2 picks up roughly where Part 1 left off.  A few days have passed since Peeta tried to kill Katniss, and she is still recovering (the scene where Katniss is being examined by medical staff is brilliantly done).  The film follows the culmination of rebellion against the Capitol as it gains strength when more and more districts join the fight.  As the rebels march on the enemy, the Hunger Games Game-makers turn the Capitol into one last trap-filled arena.


We follow Katniss and Star Squad 451 as they march on the Capitol in a war for freedom.   Peeta’s condition and recovery is also at the forefront of most of the film, with the palpable tension between Katniss and Peeta growing continually worse (how awful it is to see them call each other Capitol mutts and mean it).  There’s a very powerful quote in the book where Katniss thinks to herself: 

I realise it is not in Katniss’ nature to talk about her feelings, but I would have loved for these lines to somehow have made it into the film (Katniss saying it to Finnick, perhaps – Finnick seems like the most likely candidate she would discuss something like that with).  It is absolutely heartbreaking to watch Peeta passionately hate the woman he’s always loved because of what Snow did to him, especially considering his statements in The Hunger Games: “I don’t want them to change me [...], turn me into some kind of monster that I’m not.  I keep wishing I could think of a way to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games”.  At the end of The Hunger Games he also tells Katniss “I don’t want to forget”. 

The Capitol not only tortured him, they realised all of his biggest fears.  They made him lose himself. 

While The Hunger Games series is so much bigger than Team Peeta vs Team Gale, the question of who Katniss will ultimately end up with also needs to be answered.  It’s not as clear-cut as you might think.  While even Katniss says he is no longer the Peeta she loved, he is still Peeta and her feelings for Peeta were too real and deep to go away just because he's damaged.  Gale also says that he’s hoping Peeta will recover, because if he doesn’t, Gale doesn’t stand a chance with Katniss because she would never give up on Peeta.  It’s a complicated love triangle, deeper than the average one, and I am happy that the scene where Peeta and Gale discuss who Katniss will choose while they think she is sleeping made it into the movie.   

I had wondered how the filmmakers would handle the tragic death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman while filming took place, and they did a fantastic job of using their available footage in all the right places.  Despite his limited screen time, Plutarch is a strong presence throughout the film and Hoffman’s acting was top notch.  Plutarch always, very subtly, looks like he knows something nobody else knows (which, of course, he does).  The only scene where his absence is acutely felt, is Plutarch and Katniss’ final conversation.  In the movie he sends her a letter which is read aloud by Haymitch.  It is safe to assume that this change was made following Hoffman’s death.  It’s sad that he couldn’t film it, but it works. 
One thing the film did not portray satisfactorily, is the growth of Katniss and Johanna’s relationship.  In the book Katniss and Johanna become roommates and develop a friendship as deeply as either of them are capable of.  They train extensively with the District 13 soldiers, with Katniss earning a spot on a military squad while Johanna fails the final test; that is the reason why Johanna is not a part of Star Squad 451, something non-readers would not know.  I also don’t think non-readers will pick up on their friendship. Johanna just appears to be her usual snarky self, and Katniss appears to tolerate her more than appreciate her. 

A small but important detail that is not in the movie, is that Peeta decorates Finnick and Annie’s wedding cake.  It might seem insignificant, but it is the very first indication that Peeta might be recovering. 

Both the book and the movie investigate what is acceptable during a time of war.  Is it okay to kill innocent civilians in order to get to the masterminds?  Both book and movie do an excellent job of driving home the fact that the revolutionaries aren’t necessarily any better than the Capitol.  A very small but pivotal scene in this regard has been left out of the film.  Katniss makes a huge case for the protection of civilians, especially as the rebels cause the avalanche in District 2 (the movie also didn’t effectively explain that Katniss’ horrified reaction to Gale’s plan is because both their fathers died trapped in a mine following an avalanche), and Gale's idea for a secondary bomb trap.  The movie, however, omits a scene where Katniss is recognized by a Capitol citizen on the street after their Squad escapes the sewers.  The woman opens her mouth to scream and Katniss instinctively kills the woman to protect her Squad and her mission.  Afterwards, she doesn’t think about it much which goes to show just how much the war changed Katniss.
Star Squad 451 in the Capitol
Unlike the book, the movie shies away from the uglier side of war.  In the books Peeta loses a leg, Boggs loses two and Katniss is severely burned in the bomb that kills Prim.  Many of the more violent deaths were either changed or omitted from the film.  In the books Katniss has to stand trial for killing Coin, but she is eventually acquitted due to insanity, which would have been an interesting detail to see on the screen.  To me, in the book it felt like Katniss is made the scapegoat of the aftermath of the war and is pretty much ostracised.  She also has severe post-traumatic stress disorder, something the movie doesn’t effectively depict either.  The movies portray that Haymitch seems to be pretty much recovered, but in the book he is very much a lifelong depressed alcoholic (and he and Effie never kiss).  I suppose these changes were made in order to stick to an age restriction of PG13, but I nevertheless regret that the movie shied away from the harsh realities of war. 

Both Peeta and Katniss have far more serious mental health issues than the movie portrays.  The movie does mention Katniss’ nightmares, but says nothing of Peeta’s flashbacks to his time in the Capitol.  Based on their apparent ages in the final scene, the movies shows both of them are settled and quite stable, and married with children very shortly after returning to District 12.  The movie implies that Katniss is healed because of her marriage and family with Peeta.  In the book, she is only able to get married and start a family many years later, after therapy, once she is finally able to put the Hunger Games behind her.
Also, in the book Katniss and Peeta create a book which they fill with sketches and memories of all the people they have loved and lost. I love that book. Sadly the book did not make it into the movie.
For whatever reason (Heaven knows I have no idea what it could be) Mockingjay seems to be the least favourite of the three books of the majority of the fandom.  As for me, Mockingjay was my favourite book and while I didn’t necessarily understand the need to split the book into two movies (it’s roughly the same length as The Hunger Games and Catching Fire), I certainly don’t feel that any single scene was unnecessary or drawn out.  Perfect casting and superb acting makes The Hunger Games film series one of the very best young adult series brought to our screens.  Honouring its source material while adding plausible new scenes to enrich the viewers’ experience (as the reader is confined strictly to Katniss’ perceptions), Mockingjay Part 2 is a very satisfying conclusion to a brilliantly done adaptation.
But one day I'll have to explain about my nightmares. Why they came. Why they won't ever really go away.  I'll tell them how I survive it. I'll tell them that on bad mornings, it feels impossible to take pleasure in anything because I'm afraid it could be taken away. That's when I make a list in my head of every act of goodness I've seen someone do. It's like a game. Repetitive. Even a little tedious after more than twenty years.
But there are much worse games to play.
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