Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has been rescued from the games by being whisked away from the coliseum by the resistance. She is left with the horrible reality that her friend and fellow tribute, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), was left to the whims of the Capitol. She struggles with her new role as a symbol of the rebellion while still trying to maintain a grasp on her life before the games.
Before I get into this review a few things must be mentioned. While I have read the books, as pointed by one of my coworkers, I am mainly relying on my impressions from the book as well as consultations to Wikipedia for summaries. With that being said, I am mostly judging this film as it is, a film. Since no adaptation of a book will ever be perfect I never expect any filmmaker to stick to the books exactly without taking a few artistic interpretations. I will also not be shying away from including items from the final Hunger Games movie since they are a book series and you have full power to go read them.
To get right to it, I felt this film was unnecessary as a stand alone chapter and could have easily been condensed to a 30 minute section of a 2.5 hour Mockingjay film. It could have been great as a stand alone film, since up until this point each Hunger Games has been an action based thriller that seeks to keep the audience on the edge of their seat. It would have been refreshing to see a more nuanced film exploring the dynamics of the rebellion and its deceptively noble leader. Instead, we got about 2 hours of Katniss being told what to do and trying to decide whether she’s Team Gale or Team Peeta.
While I do understand that this love triangle is pretty central to the book and some form of romantic tension is needed in the young adult genre, it seemed forced in this time around. It seemed like these three, mostly Katniss and Gale since Peeta is largely absent during this film, have not grown at all. They are still in this weird gray area like they were at the beginning of the series regardless of everything they have been through. I’m not saying their relationship shouldn’t have been addressed, it just seems weird that we are covering the same romantic beats we have seen before.
On the subject of character development, Gale (Liam Hemsworth) seemed the same as he did in the first film. I mean, he has been a part of the rebellion for what I think a fair estimate is a couple months. I was expecting to see Gale jump right into the rebellion since he has always been fairly rebellious in the past. Instead of seeing a rising star in the rebellion, we see a glorified bodyguard. It’s not until the end of the film that we see Gale starting to be more involved with the rebellion.
Looking past Gale, we similar development problems with President Coin (Julianne Moore). President Coin has much sinisterly motives that should have been played up by this time to lay the groundwork for her true agenda to be revealed. In the books most of this is done with internal monologue which is understandably hard to bring to film. Instead of seeing Coin as leader with dubious motives we see a rebellion leader who is strong in her beliefs and willing to make sacrifices to achieve her goal, even abandoning Katniss as the Mockingjay.
To put this idea simply, instead of getting a film about a rebellion they take a rebellion and treat it like the Hunger Games. Instead of meeting and understanding the other players involved we get a group of people that are fairly one dimensional and there just to add variety. It almost seems the writers got stuck between focusing on Katniss like the last films and opening up the cast. Instead of getting either of those we get a weird gray area that is a lot like Katniss and Gale’s relationship. We’re not sure why these characters are here but they seem to be important to Katniss for some reason.
With Katniss, I have a few thoughts. Besides what I have already stated about her relationship status, she seemed less like the Katniss we have come to know. I read an interview about how the author, Suzanne Collins, was largely okay with any changes that were made as long as the focus was kept on Katniss dealing with PTSD from the games. When I read this things just kind of clicked. Of course she would be dealing with PTSD. At a young age she just went through a very traumatic few years culminating in losing the only person who went through it with her. Yet, we didn’t get that. Besides the opening scene and the scene of her sleeping troubles we don’t really see her struggling with this. Focusing more on this in the film would have added a layer that this film needed.
Beyond this lack of mental instability, I felt as a supposed rebellion leader she isn’t very rebellious. Part of the story is about how she comes around to being a symbol for the rebellion. I get that she has to struggle with this at least a little bit but she largely just sits around waiting for someone to tell her what to do. Not too mention that as a supposed symbol she isn’t very inspiring. At no point during the film was I captured by her moving speeches. Her only real inspirational tool is that she survived the games and made the Capitol alter their rules for her. Which while powerful can only last so long, especially after the fact the rebellion is in full swing.
All of this being said, this is not a bad film. If you enjoyed the books than I’m pretty sure you will enjoy this movie. It was well directed and all the performances where great. What I have detailed mainly deals with the story and the actual character development. I fully expect that Part 2 will be better for me and am excited to see the last chapter in this thrilling story.