I will admit right from the start that I think the recent fashion of splitting the final book of a series into two films is a good thing. Harry Potter was my first experience of the final-book-into-2-films trend. The cynical part of me knows that the purpose is to maximise revenue – from film-goers, through merch and DVD sales and ‘tie-ins’ – but I don’t really care as finally you can see a book brought to life mostly intact. And when it’s a great book, or at least a really good one, there is much jubilation and filmic enjoyment. So yes to The Deathly Hallows and Mockingjay, a ‘meh’ to The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn and an ‘oh my goodness what on earth were they thinking’ to The Hobbit. In fact that’s a great example of where it can all go wrong. If you have to pad a book out with misappropriated and invented characters then maybe you’ve gone too far.
Adaptations of books leave so much out or compromise too much of the story for the sake of drama so that you are usually left unsatisfied. If you love the book enough, you can forgive the film as you fill in all the gaps with your memory, as long as they stay true to the characters and the intent. The Lord of the Rings trilogy was an example of this for me. Even at three hours long for each film, so much was missed but we could forgive this for the splendour and spectacle, the elements that seemed plucked from our imaginations (and overlook a few miss-steps). At the time three whole films seemed a lot, way back then.
So back to Mockingjay, or to be exact The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (just in case you’re unsure of its provenance). The word that came to mind when I was watching this was ‘leisurely’. You feel it has the luxury to take its time. There’s not much missed out, perhaps some of the mundanity that linked the moments of suspense and frustration and despair, but overall we are slowly and inexorably propelled along Katniss’s dark journey, the slow arc from the first page of the Hunger Games to the satisfyingly bleak and inevitable ending of this final book.
There is some strong visual imagery – the scene where Katniss walks toward the greenhouse in the snow comes to mind, shot from above, symmetrical, monochromatic, emphasising her isolation. There is not as much ambiguity about who is bad and who is good as in the book, I suppose because I knew what was coming, but I was surprised by the emotional impact of some scenes – when Katniss says ‘nightlock, nightlock, nightlock’ I was affected far more than I expected.
Katniss is an interesting heroine, part of a narrative about the nature of sacrifice and uncompromised by her gender. If you liked the books, I am sure you’ll like this film. If you haven’t read the books, the films aren’t a bad substitute but read the books.
Bechdel test – pass