Have you seen Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1? If you haven’t gotten a chance to see it yet: it’s fantastic. If you had a chance to see it, but chose to see Dumb and Dumber To instead, I’m going to need to have a serious chat with you about enabling Jim Carrey’s poor career decisions. Either way, I highly recommend the film because at the very least it’ll allow you to talk to Cathy from accounting about something other than the weather. Beyond its ability to unite the awkward, the new Hunger Games movie achieves the incredible feat of being faithful to its source material while simultaneously improving upon it. Yep, the movie is better than the book. Let’s look at the top three reasons why.
1) A greater understanding of the bigger picture
Much like the Harry Potter series, Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Game trilogy is written as a first-person narrative. In the first two books, this choice is an intelligent one, as Katniss Everdeen is both knowledgeable of her own world and oblivious as to what lies beyond it. In the hunger game arenas, Katniss’s fish out of water perspective allows the reader to experience new things along with the protagonist, solidifying their bond. At the same time, however, the reader also gets the benefit of Katniss’s specialized knowledge of Collins’ world. While extremely successful in the first two novels, this narrative technique falls completely flat in Mockingjay. Problematically, the third instalment of the series attempts to tell a bigger story of the rebellion and civil war using a narrator that is completely removed from the actual turmoil. While Katniss participates in one battle, the reader never truly connects with the suffering of Panem’s people because the war’s developments are exposed via uninspired updates. The film version of Mockingjay fixes this issue by freeing itself from Katniss. No longer tied to the protagonist, the film is able to explore the realistic and gut-wrenching impact of war on Panem’s people. This strategy also fares well for Katniss, as the rebels’ efforts highlight the remarkable power of her symbolism.
2) More effective political imagery
In the novel, Katniss is a pawn, her life manipulated at the whims of opposing political titans battling for power. While her struggles are empathetic, her limited knowledge of the political strategies in play leaves the reader frustratingly hungry for more information. Contrastingly, the movie zeroes in on President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and rebel leader Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) in their respective war rooms. By eavesdropping on Coin’s sessions with Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) we gain a greater understanding of the new leader’s military skills and political drive. Although we don’t learn too many new secrets from these scenes, their inclusion gives the viewer a sense of power and control over the story that is all too often lacking in the novel. The film also does an excellent job of visually framing Coin and Snow as two sinister rivals, giving the audience subtle hints about the greater political machinations at play.
3) Katniss is more compelling
Okay, I’m just going to come out and say it: Katniss is a huge bummer in the third novel. And no, it’s not her fault. Throughout the story, the heroine is used, dragged into a war she wants no part of and kept largely in the dark about what’s happening to her loved ones. Understandably, the pressure and trauma of the ensuing events force Katniss into a deep depression. While Katniss’s emotional response may be realistic, it’s ultimately a drag to read about for hundreds of pages. Luckily, Jennifer Lawrence acts the SHIT out of the movie, turning out an incredible performance that is both vulnerable and engaging. Sure Katniss still cries when faced with her impotence, but here she has my full attention.
So, in short: go see this film ASAP if you enjoyed the first two and especially if you were a fan of the book series. And after you do see it, let us know what you thought in the comments! Or on the Twitters!