David and I got to see Mockingjay Part I when we were in Australia. We enjoyed it, but it does feel a bit like a step between movies. The movie itself is good and is a faithful adaptation of the book. At the same time if I judged it as a stand alone movie, I do not know how well it really holds up. It continues the story of Katniss and the Districts, but does not necessarily tell its own story. This does make sense since they split the story into two parts, but I feel like it does not make sense to split the story unless you really have two stories to tell. At the same time by splitting the story they were able to include a lot more details from the book than if they had kept it as one movie. There was an interesting balance, but at the same time I did enjoy the continuation of the story and the performances by all the actors were phenomenal. The movie itself, such as in the book really deals with the after effects on the characters of what occurred in the previous movies. This does not move the story forward, but does give us a great character study to explore. (Spoilers for Mockingjay after the jump.)
Half a Book
Whenever you split a book into multiple parts it usually ends up that one of the movies can end up feeling a little bit like filler or fan-service. This can be seen in both Harry Potter and Hobbit. Mockingjay Part I, while an enjoyable movie is no exception. The story that the book presents is the whole story and therefore the story arc flows over the entire book. By choosing to split the book they had to choose a place to cut the story, but that naturally means that the story arc is cut in the middle. On the other hand when you split the story this means you have more time to delve deeper into bits of the story that you would not be able to before. One example is that in the movie they included the scene where Gale and Katniss take a break from the rebellion to go hunting. It is a simple moment and one that if trying to do the whole story would have needed to be cut. At the same time it gave us a deeper look into Katniss’ mind now that she has gone through the games and been given a glimpse of war.
The great thing about being able to take the time is that we really got to see the outcome for these characters. Obviously since we are seeing most of the story from Katniss’ perspective we mostly get her dealing with her own demons and trying to move past her time in the games. Yet, we also get to see Finnick trying to deal with his own demons. Finnick always seemed so confident and now we get to see him vulnerable and worried. We get to see one of the great moments in the book and that is when Finnick is telling his story of what it is like to be a Victor of the games. It is one of the more moving moments from the book because it reveals a little more of the horror of the situation that the Districts have to face. In so many ways the Victors never leave the arena and never leave the games.
Katniss shows us this in force because while she has moments of bravery and of defiance, she still screams in her sleep. She deals with so much, but at the same time knows that she needs to remain strong because other people are counting on her. When she does not see the stakes she cannot find the strength. She is so empty from everything that has happened to her that unless there is a reason and purpose to her energy she just does not have it to give.
The biggest difference in the movie is that they include Effie Trinket instead of Katniss’ entourage as her support crew. In the book we can get to know Katniss’ support team from the games who had worked with Cinna to create the Mockingjay. In the movie we spend a lot more time with Effie Trinket and therefore it makes sense that she is the one who is used as Katniss’ support crew. She is someone who has been there with Katniss since the beginning and knows her better than most, although not as well as Haymitch. Effie also stands in for someone from the Capitol experiencing life in District 13. People in the Capitol are so used to decadence and being able to get away with practically anything, but in District 13 it is about conservation and discipline. These two ideas do not exactly blend way and Effie is a great example of this.
The other difference is also minor, but because in the movie we see from multiple perspectives we get to see the rescue of Peeta instead of just hearing about it. They give us hints and clues about what they might have been doing with the prisoners and really show the audience that Peeta was meant to be rescued because he himself turns out to be a trap for Katniss. In the book we discover this later, but the movie leads us to that conclusion by being able to see the rescue and the fact that it should have failed.
Book to Movie
As I mentioned before the adaptation of the book to the movie is really quite good. They hit all of the heartstring moments from the book that make you see Katniss for who she is and what she has been through. They are able to really show the growing rebellion amongst the Districts and the merciless actions of President Snow. At the same time there was not really a story in and of itself. The movie was building to something and that something is going to be the second half of the story. It does not make it bad, but it is not a stand alone movie, just like the first half of a book is not a stand alone book. There is a reason the story is contained in one book because it is one story being told. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and the movie, but I think we will have a better idea of the overall picture once we have both parts to compare to.