Friday, November 27, 2015

Guest Post: The Hunger Games Come to a Close

Spencer Blohm is guest posting on my blog for the fourth time. He was featured here previously on the topics of Ray BradburyYA dystopian movie adaptations, and The Strain. Today he's discussing Mockingjay, Part 2.

With the latest and final annual installment of the Hunger Games film franchise, Mockingjay Part 2, currently in theaters, the barbaric annual games of the title are also slotted for a permanent end with the intended overthrow of the capital city. Based on the young adult trilogy by Suzanne Collins, the books have been adapted into a total of four films, using the increasingly popular practice of splitting the third and final novel of such a series into two films. The previous films - Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay Part 1 - released one a year beginning in 2012, were huge successes in the box office, and the hope is that this latest film will follow that lead as well.

Following the source material as closely as possible, the final film mirrors the much more political flavor of the final novel, in turn mirroring Katniss’s growing awareness and cynicism of the political machinations of both the rebellion leader and president of district 13, Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), and of the capital city’s own President Snow (Donald Sutherland). The slower pace of Mockingjay Part 1 is somewhat justified in Part 2 by the climactic action sequences and exploration of just how much corruption can come with increased political power. Jennifer Lawrence once again gives an iconic performance as Katniss Everdeen, with Josh Hutcherson returning as Peeta and Liam Hemsworth as Gale.

One noticeable absence and thus change from the source material was the role of Plutarch Heavensbee, Head Gamekeeper turned rebellion leader in Catching Fire and Mockingjay, respectively. Philip Seymour Hoffman, the actor portraying Heavensbee, died in 2014 in the midst of filming the two parts of the final installment. Rather than rely on computer generated graphics and stand-ins, the final confrontation between his character and Katniss toward the end of the film was changed to having his words conveyed via written missive, delivered and read aloud by Haymitch, portrayed once again by Woody Harrelson. The cast and crew felt that this added an extra layer of emotion to the transaction and served as fitting tribute to the late actor.

Throughout the story as told in both the novels and the films (find the first three on DTV and Hulu), we’re able to witness the maturing and growing awareness of the main characters of the larger world around them. What began as a simple and provincial outlook on survival for the likes of Katniss and Gale, breaking laws by going beyond their district fences to hunt solely to provide for their families, ended with the awareness of the world’s workings taking them in very different directions.

Gale became much more tactical and coldly capable of considering collateral damage a necessary cost of war, while Katniss stuck to her moral code as much as possible, leaving her world-weary and reluctant to fully embrace her role as the symbol of the rebellion. Peeta, for all that he went through, stayed the most true to his original self, trying to protect Katniss and keep her alive to the end, at least when not succumbing to the mind-altering programming he endured while a capital city prisoner.

For fans of both the novels and movie adaptations, it’s usually satisfying to have the movies remain as faithful to the novels as possible, and the Hunger Games film series doesn’t disappoint in this aspect, true to the end. And in the end, it’s her choices that define Katniss more than her role as the mockingjay symbol. She chooses to do what she sees as right rather than what would be easy, and for that, she’s a role model for real young adults.