Spoiler-free part of my review:
So, I saw Mockingjay – Part 1 last night and it exceeded my expectations by far.
Of course, my expectations were low. I loooved Catching Fire–it would have taken a freaking incredible movie to top that–and after early reviews talked about how Mockingjay – Part 1 felt more like a prologue to Part 2 than an independent entry to the Hunger Games franchise, I went in expecting a pretty bad movie.
Mockingjay – Part 1 is not bad. At all.
It’s not a masterpiece by any means, of course. Part 1 has a lot of weaknesses. But I also really, really enjoyed it.
Movie (and book, if you are the one human being alive who still has not read the book nor at least been spoiled for it) spoilers below. (Additional Warning: This is about to be a very jumbled up mess of my jumbled up thoughts.)
We open a little earlier in the movie than in the book, in order to get some of the back story of what has happened since Catching Fire, which is a nice way of immediately grounding us in the world and situations at hand. Other significant changes I noticed include the addition of Effie as a key player (replacing Katniss’s prep team, along with inheriting some of Finnick and Plutarch’s lines), added scenes from Snow and Gale’s perspectives, added scenes from the district rebels’ perspectives, Katniss’s role within key conflicts became more active (especially in what became the climax for Part 1, when Gale and the others rescue the Victors) (thank God), and the disappearance of THE BEST SCENE IN THE BOOK (aka when Boggs makes the wonderful comment about seeing Finnick in his underwear).
While I loved having Effie back (Elizabeth Banks is incredible), some of her inclusion feels a little forced and I’m annoyed they cut the scene when Katniss finds her prep team basically being tortured in the bowels of Thirteen. It’s supposed to be the first time we realize quite how awful Thirteen can be, which is something we need to have in mind in Part 2. But hopefully they’ll have something to make up for that at the beginning of Part 2.
Making Katniss more involved in conflicts throughout the film was a much appreciated change from the book, in which people do things around her a lot while she sits there and cries. While that was probably a more realistic portrayal of her grief and PTSD, it’s important to remember that we aren’t talking about reality, here. We’re talking about a book/movie. And to keep the reader/viewer invested and on decent terms with your narrator, you kind of need the narrator to be involved in what’s going on. (Note: I love the Mockingjay book. I know I’m in the minority for saying that, and I don’t disagree that it has numerous shortcomings, but I still really enjoy it.)
Both Finnick and Annie seem like they’re a little, well, less broken here than in the book. Possibly all the characters do. But I like that. It feels like a more natural transition from where they were at the end of Catching Fire than the dramatic, sudden shift the books present. (Also, I reread up until the halfway point before seeing the movie, because that seemed like the most obvious point to split at–and yay, I was right–but then I made the mistake of finishing Mockingjay this morning and OMG I AM NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO HANDLE SOME OF THESE DEATHS IN PART 2.)
(Also also, I hope they give more time to Finnick in the movie than the book, because Katniss doesn’t even register him as someone she knew well in the book when he dies, and THAT IS NOT OKAY. FINNICK IS YO’ FRIEND, MISS EVERDEEN. GIVE HIS SACRIFICING HIMSELF FOR YOU AT LEAST A MOMENT OF ATTENTION, PLEASE.)
Speaking of the translation from book to film: I really, really like where they chose to split the movies. It leaves enough plot for the second half to be more than just be an extended montage of the final battle while also giving Part 1 enough plot to work as a complete movie. While I agree that it does feel like it’s the prologue to the second half to an extent, the filmmakers have fit enough dramatic structure to make Part 1 work on its own.
The script’s decent. I love how many lines they took pretty much verbatim from the book, because wow, Suzanne Collins had some good stuff in this one.
The biggest things I took fault with were the inclusion of the random rebel fight scenes and the music.
The first because despite being beautifully shot and acted, they often felt random and we had no one specific to root for in them; they felt like these out-of-nowhere scenes spliced amongst the actual plot and characters. These scenes had SO MUCH POTENTIAL and they’ve proven they can do these sorts of inclusions well, like in The Hunger Games when we cut to District 11 after Rue’s death, but they were poorly handled.
The second because, like in Catching Fire, I felt like they reused too much music, to the point that a lot of it felt out of place and clunky and took me out of the scenes. (Also, because of the way they moved suddenly between silence and pathos-inducing sweeping score pieces, the music felt wayyy too manipulative to me.)
Those are ultimately minor things, though, and I’m yet to hear a single other person complain about any of the music in this franchise, so I think that’s just me.
Jennifer Lawrence is amazing, once again, as our Mockingjay. Holy crap. Can we cast her in every movie ever for the rest of time?
Josh Hutcherson does well with what they give him and I’m excited to see more hijacked Peeta in the next movie. I LOVED the way they did the scene when he attacks Katniss and him thrashing against the hospital bed with her watching at the end is haunting.
Liam Hemsworth has finally come into his own in this franchise. Maybe it’s because he finally had some real scenes to play with, probably it’s because he finally learned how to do an American accent, but wow. For the first time ever, I actually like Gale as a character. And I can’t wait to watch his relationship with Katniss fall apart.
Overall, the cast is great. I loved the new members and the returning actors all once again did great. They’re definitely the strongest point of the film.
Great use of special effects. District 12 was appropriately disturbing and really showed how the filmmakers are no longer scared of scaring off the audience, like in the shaky cam-obsessed scenes around the Cornucopia in the first film. The action sequences here are awesome and definitely show how much bigger in scale the conclusion to The Hunger Games is in comparison with the first couple. (Also how much more money they have. Lol at the first movie.)
WHAT HAPPENED TO JOHANNA? She’s in the movie for approximately five seconds, which makes zero sense after they used her in so much of the advertising. (Also, I wish some of the ads had been included in some way in the final film, because this movie had a brilliant marketing campaign.)
The propos kind of definitely made me laugh when they probably weren’t supposed to. I think it was the inclusion of Rue’s four note whistle. I’m just so used to it being used that way in the trailers for these films themselves that it seemed off to use within them. And now I’m not sure if we, as spectators, are supposed to be the Capitol or District 13.
Maybe this entire time we’ve been seeing the Hunger Games world from the perspective of the people in Thirteen–who in many ways resemble the Capitol citizens–and this has been the filmmakers’ big reveal. Or at the least, that’s who we are now.
Because no longer are we the complacent Capitol citizens who get amusement out of teenagers killing each other in the Arena; we’re rebels fighting alongside Katniss as she tries to figure out where she stands in a changing world.
Mockingjay – Part 1 is far from perfect, but it’s also far from bad. And I am both excited and terrified to see where they go from here.
Fire is catching, indeed.
I’m supposed to write 7K today to catch up, but instead I finished rereading Mockingjay and caught up on things and did homework and talked to friends and now I’m about to spend my evening at a play. Oops?
Goal for today: 5,000 + Wednesday’s leftover 2,000 + Monday’s 2,000 + Sunday’s 1,000
Overall goal: 43,000.
Current word count: 36,123