Well, I'm still crying. Mockingjay, Part I punched me right in the feels, like the kids say. As someone who spent her formative years huffing and puffing that "the books are always better," and I am continually impressed with The Hunger Games film adaptations. They are fantastic adaptations, and films, and they're commentary on media that expands upon what Suzanne Collins envisioned. Of course, since Collins' Mockingjay is only one book, I was curious to see where Mockingjay Part I ends. Is it satisfying? Does it set up November 2015's Part II nicely?
In a word: affirmative. Let's discuss — and be warned, spoilers abound. The film ends, like Catching Fire, on Katniss' face. Only this time, she's watching a struggling Peeta fight against his restraints while President Coin, played by Julianne Moore, makes a chilling speech in the background. They're mirror images of each other, both puppets in this war. If you remember, Peeta was being slowly tortured by the Capitol and injected with tracker jacker venom so that he would fear and attack Katniss. It is the things we love most that will destroy us, as President Snow taunted. Mockingjay, Part I ends with Peeta reunited with Katniss in District 13, but changed. So, so changed. Poor Peeta. I'd say he needs a hug, but he'd probably strangle me first.
It is important to note that part one of the film ends after the book's part two begins. Remember that? The book was divided into "The Ashes" and "The Assault." The first chunk of the novel ends with Peeta warning District 13 that they are about to be attacked, and we saw all of that and more. A good choice, if you ask me.
As depressing as Mockingjay, Part I is, I really, really liked this ending. We couldn't have left Peeta in the Capitol for the whole movie, and they couldn't have ended the film without us knowing the full damage that had been done. This sets up a rehabilitation arc for him in Part II. It also focuses the second film on the upcoming battle in District 2 and then the Capitol — similar to how Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II was more focused on the Battle of Hogwarts. The first Mockingjay film centered around getting Peeta, Joanna and Annie Cresta out of Snow's grasp. The second film will be about deprogramming everything that Snow has done to them there. This is when and why she'll demand to be the one who kills Snow. It introduces a new, personal danger for Katniss to deal with, which is excellent storytelling.
Coin's final speech, and the film in general, do an excellent job framing District 13 in a way that mirrors the Capitol. President Coin raises Katniss' hand and the shots are set up exactly the same way they are when she volunteers and wins The Hunger Games. The "tour" Katniss goes on to shoot propaganda is really no different than the Victory Tour, only now she's reading President Coin's message instead of President Snow's. The Game is never over. The train never ends. The military residents of District 13 are shuffled in to listen to Coin the same way the other Districts are marched in to a public execution. There is enough doubt planted to lead us into Katniss' motivations in Part II, but nothing so overt that it spoils the experience. You even start to wonder if they abandoned Peeta on purpose to further motivate Katniss. Yeesh!
I think as this trend of splitting one book into two films catches on with the money end of filmmaking, it is slowly being perfected by the artistic side. This doesn't feel like half of a story. It feels like one full film with a hell of an emotional cliffhanger. We'll all burn together as we wait for Part II.
Image: Murray Close/Lionsgate; Giphy (2)