NaNo Day 21: Mockingjay – Part 1 Reaction

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.

**********

NaNo Update:

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

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“Nisus and Scylla”)

After going to see The Hunger Games a second time, I must amend my previous statement: While I still maintain that it left out a lot of the subplot stuff from the novel, the movie in itself was really good, and I’m glad I got to see it again because now I’m sort of in love with it. 🙂

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a short story I wrote for mythology class last semester called “Nisus and Scylla” — it’s a retelling of the classic Greek myth. 🙂

 

**********

Six months. It had been six months since the Cretans first arrived in the port of Megara, and six months since Scylla first laid eyes on King Minos as he leapt off the side of his ship, straight into the frothing blue ocean waves. Six months since he and his men surged towards her kingdom’s walls, and her people screamed and hid in their homes, and the Megaran soldiers sealed shut the gates.

Six months since the war began. Six months since Scylla had last been free.

Scylla hadn’t loved King Minos at first. No, definitely not. At first, he appeared to her a foreigner; frightening and exotic. But over time, frightening gave way for intriguing, and exotic became something unique to behold rather than to evade. Being shut up in the small kingdom with the Megarans for those six months had made them seem drab in comparison and only fostered her growing feelings for the invading king.

But what to do about these feelings? Scylla wondered. The Cretans had made no progress in the breeching of Megara’s walls and Scylla’s father King Nisus didn’t seem the least bit worried about them.

Sighing, Scylla leaned back against the tall stone pillar from the base of which she watched King Minos. It reached up from the walkway atop the outermost siege wall as if whatever ancient Megaran who had built it wished to reach the heavens with his creation. What freedom must there to be had up there in the sky?

Freedom. It had been six months since Scylla last was free.

She tilted her head and held her slender fingers against the sun, squinting in the direction of the invaders’ camp beyond the walls. Once again, King Minos and his men could be seen making and breaking and making and breaking their plans to bring down the siege walls. He seemed so intelligent, shouting out orders to the soldiers and drawing diagrams in the damp sand along the shore, but none of it would help him.

As the daughter of the great King Nisus, Scylla was privy to the knowledge that the Cretans failed to conquer the kingdom simply because of a magic purple lock of hair that grew from her father’s scalp. If it were to be lopped off, whoever possessed it would take Megara without folly, but for as long as King Nisus still had it on his head, he would never lose his throne.

It will be difficult, Scylla reasoned, to gain King Minos’s affection while locked up here in Father’s kingdom. She already was as close as she could get while the gates were closed, huddled atop the massive walls where the archers often stood during battles. She shivered despite the sun.

Because Minos cannot reach me in here, I must find a way to reach him beyond the walls… but how can I gain his trust? The king of Crete is not likely to receive the princess of Megara well if I should invade his camp, she thought to herself. And once again, I’ve led myself back to Father’s hair. She bit her lip.

For weeks Scylla had considered the various ways she could gain the trust of King Minos, and always she came back to King Nisus’s magic purple hair. King Minos would be delighted to have the chopped hair, because it would mean a near-spontaneous victory over the Megarans. But she couldn’t take the hair from her own father, could she? The man who had raised her?

But Scylla was drunk with love, and no matter which way she looked at her problem, the only obvious answer seemed to be to take her father’s hair.

Okay, she decided, getting to her feet and brushing the sand dust from her elaborate gown. She glanced once more down upon the Cretans and felt her fingers weave themselves into knots as she thought of what she was about to do. Okay, I’m going to finally do it. Tonight, I will steal into Father’s bedchamber and cut his hair.

 

Midnight came all too soon for Princess Scylla, but she had made up her mind, and so – when the fires burned low and the kingdom was quiet – she took a knife from the kitchens and scurried up the stairwells to her father’s room, careful not to alert the servants to her presence.

Scylla was a ghost as she practically flew up and down the halls, around corners and through passageways. Her heart thudded with fear, so loudly she was afraid it would alert her father to her presence before she could even reach him, but the sound was only in her ears, and despite her fear, Scylla felt freer in those moments than she had since the gates first clanged shut six months before. There was a certain wildness in the feel of the cool, damp air rushing against her cheeks and the clamminess of her palms.

Six months. Freedom. A life after this with King Minos, as he will surely be pleased with my offering.

These were the thoughts that kept her from stopping and turning back. These were the thoughts that made the uneasiness dissipate.

Finally, the princess reached her father’s chamber, and she pushed the door against its hinges, as gently and slowly as she could. As she slipped through the doorway, the softly burning candles in the bedroom caught her in their light, throwing her sleek black shadow across the grand bed of King Nisus, and Scylla stopped, horrorstruck. Her blood pounded in her ears. Her knees knocked together beneath her splendid dress.

But the old king did not stir.

With her last ounce of courage, Scylla pulled the knife from where she’d hidden it amongst her skirts and held it, shaking, to the glittering lock of purple hair that splayed out across her father’s pillow. One sharp snip and the hair fell free.

She stepped hurriedly back, half expecting guards to rush in and bind her hands, to put her to death for her treachery, but no alarms sounded and no one took notice as she slipped back out of the room and away from her home.

Still dark. It was still dark as she raced up the steps to the walkway along the top of the walls and ran for her favorite stone pillar. She quickly tied a length of ribbon she had brought from her chambermaid’s sewing things and lassoed it around the pillar. With frightened fingers, she tied the noosed end into knots, and without testing it to see if it should hold, she took the other in her hands and slid her feet over the barrier, so that they dangled over the edge of the wall, over the beach. With her back to her kingdom, to her home, she pushed off.

The night was silent as she fell from the siege wall, ribbon tangled in her hands and the whistling wind tangled in her hair. The ribbon ran out a length before the ground, and when she let go the beach raced up to meet her.

Scylla lay there for a moment, coughing the sand from her throat. Well that was an unpleasant landing. But when she stood, she found she was not injured, and the confiscated purple hair was still safe where she’d hidden it.

Remembering her mission, she took one last glance back at her kingdom walls, and then darted away towards the camp of the Cretans.

She disappeared into the night.

 

“What did you do?”

Scylla could not understand why King Minos’s handsome face was flushed with rage.

“I brought you the key to winning the war against my father, my love!” she exclaimed, giving him her most radiant smile. While that smile could win over the heart of any man back within the safe walls of Megara, it had a vastly lateral effect on the foreign king. With an anger so fierce and indifferent Scylla could not understand it, he lashed out at her. Her cheek stung from the blow.

“Do not call me your love, you filthy vermin,” he spat. Her smile faded. “This is treachery, and I will not win a war by treachery! I’ll win it by skill and determination. How else should it be known that I am the better king?”

“But my love –” she began, but then bit back her words. “King Minos, you could not win without my help. The purple hair is magic. While my father possessed it, no one could take his kingdom. Surely you must be grateful.”

“Grateful for a spineless fool who cheats and then thinks she deserves a reward?” he growled. His dark eyes flashed and Scylla involuntarily took a step away. She knocked into the cloth side of the tent and a whimper escaped from her lips as Minos approached her again.

She had never felt so trapped.

“Get out of my sight, you arrogant princess of Megara.” He said it with contempt. “I will win this war my own way.”

“Well it’s too late,” Scylla was in tears, “because I’ve already given the magic hair to you. No matter how difficult you try to win the war by your own cunning, it will now be impossible. It’ll appear as sheer dumb luck.”

“Fine then.” King Minos turned to where his advisor stood cowering in the corner. The poor old man looked nearly as afraid as Scylla felt. “We take the kingdom at dawn and then leave to go back to Crete at sunset.”

Crete, Scylla thought to herself wistfully. The exoticness of it all still haunted her. How lovely it would be to travel to that faraway place. “Please, sire!” she found herself bursting out. “Please, take me with you! I love you!”

The glint in Minos’s eye was murderous. He looked down upon her like she was a poorly behaved dog that he wished to beat. “There is no room for love in war.”

 

Scylla was crying. She knew she should keep quiet, if she should be able to sneak aboard King Minos’s ship, but she could not help herself, and the tears came and came.

She loved him. She loved him so. For six months, she had been trapped and she had loved him, and for what? The handsome king scorned her. Hated her.

But Scylla would rather his hate than his indifference, which she was sure to receive if she remained in Megara.

With light footsteps, she journeyed across the sand and, wiping her tears with her trembling hand, grasped onto the side of the ship. She meant to pull herself onboard and to sneak into some nook or cranny where she could hide until they were too far out to sea to send her back to her father’s now burning kingdom, but it wasn’t to be.

“I see you there.” King Minos spoke in a deadly calm cadence as he stared down at the princess, clinging to the side of his vessel. “Get off before I have a soldier slice you off with his sword. I promise it will be the one we used to kill your father.”

That hit her then. Father? Scylla thought. Father is dead? I didn’t think that would happen… I didn’t think they would do that… Surely they could have allowed him to live on as a beggar, at least!

But in her heart, she knew they never would have. Leaving the old king alive would have shown weakness on their part.

The Cretans never would have taken the kingdom if it weren’t for her treachery… Oh! She truly was unworthy of Minos’s affections! She had been so blinded by love that she had caused the death of her own father!

The weeping commenced again, and unable to stand it any longer, King Minos shook his head and left her there to cling to the side of the ship. “If she’s still there when we reach Crete,” he shouted to his men, “feed her to the palace hounds!”

She continued to snivel. “Father, oh father!” she whimpered.

Scylla was so lost in her misery that she was unaware of the great eagle swooping down towards her until his talons clenched around her shoulders and ripped her from the side of the ship, and then they were flying up, up, and up. Down below, the soldiers shouted and pointed, but now Scylla and the eagle were too high up to be properly seen.

She was numb, then. Locked away. Unsure what to do or how she’d gotten to where she was. All she was aware of was the way the setting sun flashed in her eyes, temporarily blinding her, and then, as the eagle’s wings flapped and they swooped away from the sun, the way she could just make out a stilted purple feather that grew twisted among the shining brown and grey plumage.

A purple feather that was shorter than its neighbors, stunted like a lock of hair fresh chopped.

The realization came into her mind all at once. The gods most have made him this eagle when they saw him dying by the Cretans’ hands! They had saved him!

“Oh father!” she shrieked with joy… but the eagle that once was a king was not there to rescue her. With a sound like laughter emanating from his beak, he opened his talons and released his daughter to the air.

She was so far up in the sky, she could see to the edge of the sea.

I am going to die, Scylla thought as she fell. I deserve to die, because I sinned. I sinned greatly.

“But princess Scylla,” the wind seemed to be saying, smiling, whispering to her as she fell like a rock, “you sinned only because of love, and one may be forgiven for mistakes made in the heat of affection.”

Involuntarily, Scylla felt her arms lift up, then, battle against the air rushing all around her. She would not die. She flapped her arms like wings, attempting to gain air resistance and slow her fall. The water grew closer and closer. And then something miraculous happened. The more Scylla flapped, the more her arms worked, until she was genuinely gliding along the blue waves on feathered wings. Looking down at her reflection in the last rays of sunset, she saw that she had become a bird also.

Panic first seized her heart, but then the wind caught under her wings and lifted her up, up, up, and she found herself soaring. It was breathtaking, up there in the sky. Such freedom.

One glance back at the eagle that was King Nisus told Scylla that he would never abandon his quest for revenge; he would always chase her, no matter if she was a human or a bird. But in that moment, she did not care.

For six months, Scylla had been trapped. For six months, she had not been free.

But at least now she would always be free, for forever more.

**********

What sorts of things would you all like to see in future Wordy Wednedsays? More short stories? Poetry, novel excerpts, songs? Let me know in the comments!

Also: I’m going to be on vacation this weekend (spring break whoohoo!!), so I might not be able to post until next week. My apologies if that happens!

Love you guys!!

 

~Julia

Hunger Games Movie Reaction

I’m a bundle of mixed feelings.

Part of me REALLY, SUPER LOVED the Hunger Games movie. The other part of me was extremely disappointed.

Now don’t go calling the Peacekeepers on me or anything, because I truly did think that there were some awesome parts of the movie, but there were also some other parts that were close to my heart and were left out of the film, and that bothered me. (Such as 99% of the ending, such as *spoilers* Katniss having to mess with Peeta’s tourniquet, and then admitting to him right before they get back to 12 that she only faked loving him in order to win the games).

However, for all that was lost in the translation from book to film, there were some great added scenes in the movie that I adored, especially the ones with Seneca Crane (although his amazing beard occasionally distracted me from what was actually going on, throughout that 😉 ).

The movie did make me cry, but not when *spoilers* Rue died. It was when I saw her father in District 11, reacting to her death.

The movie did make me laugh, but it was less for Peeta’s self-deprecating humor from the novel — which really only presented itself in one scene, during his pre-Games interview — as much as the dynamic between Effie and Haymitch (which is very humorous, let me tell you).

Honestly, I thought Haymitch was not nearly drunk enough throughout the film, the emotional scenes didn’t play out well because they didn’t vamp up the emotion but instead jumped from Low Emotion straight to High Emotion, and the ending was just plain messed up — and not in a “we ran out of time to do the ending properly” kind of messed up way, but like they thought the book ending wasn’t important enough to portray… which is what, above all else, really, truly bothered me.

I’m not mad… overall, it was still a good movie. And I’m not exactly disappointed, either… it’s more like I’m, well, grieving. All these months anticipating this movie, and picturing it in my head, and in the end it wasn’t what I was expecting it to be.

Which is, I guess when you think about it, to be expected.

So the Hunger Games movie wasn’t what I wanted it to be. Oh well. That doesn’t take away from the fact that it was a good movie, most of the acting was superb (although don’t get me started on Liam Hemsworth’s Gale, which was extremely shaky in the scene that he’s introduced, out in the woods), and the setting was spot-on and beautiful in the way that only a fully-contrived universe can be.

… Which basically leaves me back at square one: I don’t know what to think. Part of me loves the movie, part of me has no choice but to be disappointed. But either way, I’m glad that I got to see the midnight screening of it, and I’m glad that I’m getting to see it again this weekend — maybe then I’ll be able to think through what I think of it more and make a decision on it.

My reaction? A solid film, one of the best book-to-movie adaptions I’ve seen, and definitely worth the money to go out and see it (even if it’s only so you can swoon over Josh Hutcherson)… But be prepared to lose some of the depth from the novel, especially dealing with the subplot-character-relationships. I’m excited, now, to see how they’ll handle the second movie. 🙂

I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars.

A couple of shots of me in my Katniss costume before I left for the movie. 🙂

UPDATE: How to Make a Katniss Costume

~Julia