Monday, November 24, 2014

Mockingjay, Part 1

If you are my friend or a regular reader, it will not surprise you to learn that I went to see the new movie Mockingjay, Part 1 the first night it was out. The movie was the penultimate installment of a series of four movies, telling the the story of The Hunger Games books on the big screen.

I love the books because of the great storytelling, the characters, and most of all because the themes addressed which go to the essence of who we are. For more about what I think the books are telling us and why they are so popular, check out this post:

The Hunger Games...what's all the fuss about?

So how did I like the latest movie?

First, I thought it was riveting. The acting was fantastic, the story moved fast, and frankly it did not seem like nearly two hours. Philip Seymour Hoffman was amazing as Plutarch, and it was sad to think we will see him act anymore. The moment where Katniss is overcome with emotion because of the cruelty of the Capitol and vows to bring them down ("If we burn, you burn with us!"), gave me chill bumps and may be one of my favorite movie moments ever. Overall it was faithful the original direction of the story, although....well, more on that below. The bottom line is that it was a very entertaining and thought-provoking movie. If I had not read the book, I would have considered it almost perfect cinema. It was so good that I can't wait to see the final installment next year.

But, I have read the book.

Now, don't get me wrong. I am not one of the book fans who think that a movie should match the story in a book exactly. I am keenly aware of the fact that telling the story in a book like this exactly would probably require a ten-hour movie, and it would probably drag. Your mind gives a book pace that you don't get in a really long movie. And - let me be clear on this - the Hunger Games movies, including this one, have been more faithful to their source material than most such attempts. And I've been very pleased with that.

NOTE: If you have not seen the movie or read the book, a lot of what follows may not make much sense. Also, CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS

An example of a difference that I think was unavoidable: in the book series Katniss develops relationships with the Capitol staff who are in charge of her appearance, and so when they are mistreated in District 13 it is part of what drives her experience there, and helps show us that District 13 is not 100% the good guys. But I understand that since those relationships were not developed in the first two movies, it would be confusing to suddenly make a big deal of their treatment.

But here's the thing I didn't see that I wish I would have: a sense of ambivalence as to the motives of the District 13 leadership. The mistreatment of the former Capitol makeover people, the strict diet and schedule required of all District 13 residents, the extreme pressure put on Katniss to perform, and a President Coin much more intimidating than the one played by Julianne Moore so far...all these things make the reader wonder if the new regime is really that much better than the old. We think it is, but we're not sure. And that, friends, is so important to the theme of the book, and to the place where the story is headed. 

So I missed those things, and I wonder a little bit about where Part 2 is headed. Is it a simple good vs. evil battle? Or is a more complex picture, as portrayed in the original story?

All that aside, I did love the movie. I will probably see it again in the theater and will definitely look forward to owning a copy.

And I can't wait to see the conclusion. November 2015...I'm waiting on you.

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