Page to Screen: Mockingjay Part 1
The Film Poster
Released in the end of 2014, the first part of the Mockingjay film follows its source material up to the point just after the attempt to save the captured Tributes. There are some small differences here and there but the tone and direction of the novel carries on faithfully. If anything, this work is probably a bit more true than previous ones due to the fact we're told the story more often from Katniss's eyes than from other character perspectives.
The film retains its old cast and acquires more actors such as Mahershala Ali, Natalie Dormer, Robert Knepper (as an original character), Julianne Moore, and others. This is also recognized as one of the last films Philip Seymour Hoffman portrayed a character in before his death.
Suzanne Collin's third book from The Hunger Games series, following The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, was released in 2010. It continues the story following Katniss Everdeen, one the two winners of the 74th Hunger Game as well as one of the tributes rescued during the 75th Game. The structure of the District and Capitol life is over as revolutions are beginning all over Panem as fighting occurs in isolated districts. Katniss was rescued only to be used as a symbol of the resistance which begins a new struggle with a different power. Worst of all is Peeta, her potential love interest and other winner of the 74th Hunger Game, has been captured by the Capitol and is being used in propaganda. It all comes down to a head when civil war finally breaks.
Continuing Themes from Previous Movies
To be quick (you can read more in depth about it in previous commentaries for the 1st and 2nd film adaptations), in the books the perspective is Katniss's own mind. In the film, it's a much more free form third person perspective, resulting in the loss of Katniss's thoughts but allowing new scenes that Katniss was not present for.
Also, the films are considerably less graphic than the books presumably to keep a younger rating to allow it to be more accessible for younger audiences, primarily its target following.
No Love for Enobaria
Enobaria was one of the Tributes in the 75th Hunger Games that was abducted by the Capitol (in case you forgot, she's the one who had her teeth surgically altered to better rip out people's throats). She was the only surviving Career so it's implied that she has a good relationship with the Capitol, possibly being let go when Peeta and Johanna are being tortured. However, in the book she does appear again and sides with the Rebels. Not only that but Katniss's plea for the captured Tributes also covers Enobaria, allowing her to live on.
Also of mention is Brutus, a Tribute that Peeta reveals he kills in an interview with Ceasar. There's no mention of him, although it's possible he's the one who drowned when scuffling with Peeta.
Speaking of Peeta, there's something that's been missing the entire series, Peeta's leg. Peeta had to a leg amputed from the 74th Hunger Games and was given a prosthetic similar to how the Capitol fixed up Katniss's ear. However, it really wasn't a big deal until the televised events where Peeta is attempting to dissuade civil war. During these segments, the camera would linger on Peeta's handicap to evoke an emotional response.
The films ignored this and until now it was quite forgettable. But, since at this point Peeta is being used aggressively as a sympathetic symbol, it becomes more than worthy of mentioning.
Also speaking of legs, Beetee is not a parapalegic. In the book he admits that he can stand and walk around but that he gets tired quickly, all due to his injuries in the third Quarter Quell. However there is no such confession nor is Beetee ever seen out of his own personal wheelchair, leading many to believe he's become crippled. Also of note, Beetee gets significantly more screen time than he remains on the page.
Katniss, Not a Soldier
There's actually a bit of a significant difference to how Katniss is treated by others in the book to the movie. She's partially mocked and limited in what she can do on film because she has no training (since last man standing 'games' are extremely different from rank and file soldiers during a war). Yet in the book she receives some considerable training in order to bring her up to snuff, something that makes the final battle scene more believable. In fact, Boggs commonly refers to her as 'Soldier Everdeen' because of her status. It's not sure how the film makers are going to compensate for Katniss's lack of formal training for the upcoming battle or if they're simply going to let it slide and be understood when it comes to Star Squad.
Katniss, Easily Dislikable
This is more of a personal reflection, but I enjoyed the Hunger Games books for a variety of reasons. One of those was Katniss's intense unlikability. She does little for others other than family, and the things she does for Peeta are driven by guilt (specifically starting with the loaf of bread given to her). She can't decide between two romantic interests, she's willing to kill those she's in an alliance with (in the 75th Hunger Games), and she seems to have the worst impressions of everyone she meets. Sure, she has more than a few terrible things happen to her, but Peeta turned out better than alright in the end. In my opinion, Katniss is a terrible person.
Her actress, Jennifer Lawrence, does not immediately fit that description however. Intensely liked by the consumer base, Lawrence makes Katniss on-screen far more likable. That being said, this film is slowly crossing the book and film versions of Katniss. It's framed perfectly by Gale when they kiss, telling her she only loves him because he's hurting and that she'll get over it, which honestly, she does. It's not often one gets an unlikable hero, and I appreciate that.
As those before it, this adaptation is solid. It doesn't quite have the flair the first two films had (as there are obviously no Hunger Games occurring) and a fair amount of time is invested in Katniss having to deal with everything, as well as introducing new characters into the mix. That being said, this film is a solid introductory section of the Mockingjay book and ended well considering that the story is divided into two parts.
That being said, the section that is adapted for this film is a little lackluster. The plot is only two parts, rescue the Tributes and cliffhanger. Sure, there are side stories involved and Katniss creates roughly two interview segments but that's about it. Once Mockingjay Part 2 is released, it may be brought to question why the book was divided into two parts at all.
*also on a more personal note, I was a little disappointed with how they displayed Finnick's revelation on how the Capitol uses its Tributes. A life of forced prostitution and gaining secrets is quite a bit of a twist in itself, especially for Finnick's character who's introduced as such an easygoing guy. Not only that, but Finnick's story explains what happens to so many other Tributes and displays that even after the Hunger Games, the Capitol continues to abuse its power.