Mockingjay Part 1: Book-to-Movie Adaptation Review (Spoiler-Free Until Mentioned)

MockingjayAdaptation Rating: 9.5 out of 10 stars

Overview of What I Was Thinking Going In:
I must say, preemptively, that I did not enjoy the book Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. I thought that though Katniss’s depression and unwillingness to interact with many people was entirely realistic and in character, it made for a very boring point of view for the story to be told in. That problem started setting in around Catching Fire and just kept getting worse as the books went on. It was so frustrating for me to read such an epic conclusion to a series in such a narrow point of view. I hoped that the movie would remedy this problem since the other two movies thus far were told in a third person omniscient perspective, showing us what’s going on in the Capitol while Katniss is going through everything. I was so spectacularly right.

What I Thought Was Done Best:
The way the movie cuts between Katniss and what she’s doing and the riots that start up in other districts is amazing.  It feels so seamless and fitting that I don’t understand how it could have been done any other way.  The scene where Katniss sings The Hanging Tree, a long-awaited moment for many of the book readers, was my favorite scene by far.  It shows how directly Katniss’s actions impact the people in the districts and gives an amazing action scene to boot.

Common Criticism:
One of the main criticisms that people had with this movie was that “it’s just set-up for the next one.”  And you know what?  They’re right.  The Hunger Games and Catching Fire were build-up to this one too.  Does that mean it’s not a good movie?  Heck no!  Mockingjay Part 1 has its own story arc of exposition, rising action, climax, and resolution just like any other movie.  Is it a bunch of kids fighting to the death?  No.  But this movie definitely has the most impactful action of any of the three movies out so far.  The movie ends a bit after what book readers call “The Rescue,” so most of the buildup is to that event.  For book readers like me, this event is a very big deal.  However, I can understand how people expecting the epic ending of a final installment would be disappointed with how much of the “let’s take over the government” goal is accomplished.  It’s worth watching anyway, trust me.

Things to Note Going Into the Movie:
If you are sensitive to strobe lights, close your eyes when people start running down a triangular staircase. It’s safe to look back once the “blast doors” are closed; it’ll be announced. It would be a shame to have your time watching such a great movie ruined by a splitting headache or worse. Please take the precautions necessary to keep yourself safe.

The movie jumps right in where Catching Fire ended. There are a lot of small gestures and references to it that aren’t re-explained for people who have forgotten such things. I recommend re-watching or reading Catching Fire before going to see this new masterpiece. Luckily, both the book and the movie are available through the Seattle Public Library!

My Favorite Scenes (SPOILERS START HERE):

  • Effie’s first scene was brilliant. Effie didn’t go to 13 in the book, but in the movie she replaced the whole swarm of people assigned to make Katniss look good for the Propos. I really loved the change. In her first scene, Effie’s overreacting to the drabness of 13 by talking to Plutarch as if he’s a warden checking in on a prisoner and Plutarch just looks so fed up as he explains, “you know, the door opens. From the inside. See? I told you, these are standard living quarters.”  Effie just dismisses the whole thought with a flick of the wrist. The sass! I love it!
  • Katniss acting in the first Propo. That scene was hysterical!  This is not a funny movie, but this scene had me in stitches.  I especially enjoyed how Coin and Plutarch had Katniss hoist this long metal rod in the air as if it were a flag (edited in by their staff later) and wave it around as they painstakingly fed her the lines. “That, my friends, is how a revolution dies.”  Indeed, Haymitch.  Indeed.
  • District 8. That entire scene was so real.  Things like that happen in real life.  It was shot in such a way that you can really feel like you’re there.  Like you’re in danger of dying.  It was absolutely terrifying.  If you’re ever in need of an example to show someone how this series deals with real-life issues — that it’s not just some teen fad — show them this scene.
  • The Hanging Tree” scene.  I could not put a melody to the words of this song when I was reading it, but James Newton Howard did such justice to the emotional weight of the song in his composition I can’t see how I didn’t hear this before.  It’s just so fitting.  The way it fed into the riot in District 3 resulting in the blackout, though?  Gold.  Pure gold.  It was so haunting; I had chills through the whole thing.  If there’s no other reason to watch the movie, watch it for that scene.
  • And lastly, but certainly not least, The Rescue.  I knew exactly what was going to happen and I was still on the edge of my seat the entire time!  The cross-cutting from Finnick’s story to the people infiltrating the Capitol was superb.  And I wasn’t the only one who thought credits were going to roll after Peeta knocked Katniss unconscious, was I?  I’m so glad that didn’t happen.  I might have died.

I hope that the next movie’s just as suspenseful!

–PJ, Greenwood, Teen Adviser


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