The first Hunger Games movie came out the day before my birthday. So, obviously, it only made sense that my birthday celebration that year included the midnight showing. But, the first movie disappointed all of us, thanks to bad direction and everyone looking pretty... well, not hungry (Seriously, The Honest Trailer says it all). But, I still had hope! It wasn't until I caught the amazing Catching Fire that I fell in love with the movie version of the trilogy.
When it came to the second installment, I knew I had to watch it more than once. OK, so I saw it three times. Can you blame me? The drama, the Finnick, the everything. I couldn't resist. And when it came to Mockingjay — Part 1, I absolutely had to do the same. Which is why I, in my fangirl mentality, saw the movie three times over opening weekend. And here's what I thought. (Don't read on if you haven't read the books — tons of spoilers below!)
One of the most painful parts of the Mockingjay book is the very beginning, when Katniss visits District 12 and sees the aftermath of President Snow's bombing. It was a heartbreaking scene in the book and even more heartbreaking to see on the big screen. Although it comes a bit later in the movie, it is poignant nonetheless. When Katniss almost collapses at the sight of countless dead bodies, we feel it, too. And later, when the camera crew goes there, Gale's account of the night only breaks my heart even more.
Did anyone else who has read the books think that Julianne Moore felt a bit soft? President Coin is a cold, calculating woman who eventually meets her end with Katniss' arrow. But Moore's Coin is gentle and even a bit nice. I mean, seriously, what was with that comforting scene towards the end? What watching the movie a couple times helped me realize is that they are setting her up to be increasingly power-hungry. Just think about the three speeches in the movie, from the demure and to the point (the first), to the showmanship and credit of the last (in which she emphasizes her own pleasure). Seriously, guys. It's going to get crazier in Part 2.
One of the best parts of Mockingjay is definitely the romance and devotion between Finnick and Annie. It's impossible to ignore how much he loves her and how much he wants to see her safe. So, eventually, when the District 4 victor is reunited with his one true love, my heart melts. I can watch that scene over and over again when she leaps into his arms and they're together again. Although we'll see heartbreak by the end of Mockingjay — Part 2, I am excited to see their sure-to-be beautiful wedding next year (and to celebrate with some Mockingjay wedding-inspired cookies, of course).
It's one thing to read about this underground secret district, but it's a whole other thing to actually see it. I was completely mesmerized by any scene that involved an in-depth look of what life was like there. From the rooms to the cafeteria to the insanity of the levels (seriously, how deep underground are they?), the District is expansive and beautiful and kind of scary. The outfits they wear are bleak and so is living there, it seems. A fascinating watch.
In lieu of her old prep team (from the books), the movie writers had to rework this a bit and instead featured Effie as part of Katniss' big team. Elizabeth Banks played her magnificently. From her prisoner-of-war attitude to her few remnants of Capitol glamour (did you see those bracelets?), Effie killed it in this movie. She was hysterical and she was helpful. I certainly wouldn't have trusted anyone else to help make Katniss into the beautiful creature she needed to be.
On a completely different note, one of the most gut-wrenching moments of the books and the movie is when Katniss kisses Gale. Not because I am all Team Peeta and didn't want it to happen, but because of Gale's reaction to the kiss. When he tells Katniss that the only time that she pays attention to him is when he's hurt, my heart breaks. My stomach turns. It's awful. And amazing. Seeing Liam Hemsworth say those words to a pretty shocked (and surprised) Jennifer Lawrence was worth the admission price all on its own. Man, it hurts so good.
One of the things we don't get to see in the book is how President Snow reacts to what happened at the end of Catching Fire. We assume he's furious, of course, but we don't truly see much of him until the very end. In the movie, it was different. We got a lovely view into Donald Sutherland's Snow and how he views the war. "Moves and countermoves." I mean, who didn't love that line?
It was really interesting to see the way that the movies expanded on the war. I loved seeing what was going on in all of the different districts. There's nothing quite like it and I don't think the book could have done a better job. What the movie accomplishes is that it allows you to see beyond Katniss' vision, and it's glorious. One of the most powerful scenes in the movie is definitely when the lumberjacks climb up the trees, bomb the Capitol's men and scream, "When we burn, you burn with us!" What a powerful message and image to see on the screen. It sends shivers down my spine just thinking about it.
He's maybe not the best friend that Katniss has, but he's the only one in District 13 who seems to have a good sense of what she needs. He's there to coach her in the best way that he knows how and he's there when she needs a shoulder to cry on. When she whispers about losing them both tonight (meaning Gale and Peeta during the big rescue mission at the end), he's there to hold her as she cries. There aren't many of them, but when Haymitch shows up, he displays a sweetness that is surprisingly needed for such a bleak movie.
The transformation of Katniss from the games to being the symbol of a revolution is a truly spectacular one. It's spectacular in the books and it's even more spectacular in the movies. When we see her scream into the camera in District 8, we are moved. I was moved, anyway. It's a powerful scene that was shot beautifully and simply done well. It's one of those book-to-screen moments that makes you really proud. I don't think Francis Lawrence could have done a better job with directing, because it was all magical.
Oh, you know what I'm talking about. The scene of the rescue was stressful enough, but if you know anything about the book, then you know that the truly shocking scene happens when Peeta attacks Katniss. During the whole movie, I had a feeling that this is where it would end. My stomach was in knots the first time and it remained in knots the times after. When Katniss enters the room, and when Peeta first sees her, and then the attack… oh, man, it's gruesome. And violent! So much more violent than I remember it being in the book and I weirdly loved it because of that. They really went for it with that scene and it's the one burned into my memory and the one that will get me through the next year while I anxiously wait for Mockingjay — Part 2.
I've heard a lot of criticism of Mockingjay — Part 1, especially since it didn't feel like a complete movie. But the truth is that it's not a complete story. What we've seen so far is simply there to set up the bigger story in Part 2, much like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 did. Luckily, we got a lot of great scenes and moments in this one. Now… is it November 2015 yet?
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