Released 11/21/2014 Rated: PG-13
There are a few disadvantages of dividing a single book/story into a two-parter. The first is that Part 1 is pretty much nothing but a build-up to Part 2. Not much happens action-wise, which leaves for a duller film. Yes, filmmakers can spend more time on details, and work at better encompassing the full story instead of changing things around to fit some-odd-hundred-pages worth of intricate plot and subplots into a maximum two-and-a-half-hour-long movie, but that leads to more questions than answers. Secondly, viewers have to wait an additional year to get the completed story. Which leads to my third point: just as Part 1 is getting good, it ends on a cliff hanger, which is annoying when having to wait for Part 2. The split works for certain series better than others. We didn’t need Breaking Dawn in two parts—we certainly didn’t need The Hobbit in three parts—however, The Deathly Hallows had a lot of ground to cover.
That being said, I enjoyed Part 1 very much. The only marketing I had seen going into it were the teasers, which were the interrupted Capitol broadcasts by District 13. That is how you’re supposed to market a film! People who have read the books know exactly what’s going on, and those only interested in the films are intrigued. Either way: mind blown.
I absolutely loved how they kept Effie Trinket in this film. Her character doesn’t show up until the very end of the last book, but Katniss’s prep team had been stolen away to 13 from the beginning. I’m very glad they made the switch. We never really spent much time with the prep team in the films, and haven’t formed an attachment to them, but Effie has always been there. The way she talks, the way she moves, how she is handling life in District 13: “I miss coffee!”, her relationship with Katniss, and also with Haymitch; I could watch this woman forever. Elizabeth Banks is an absolute gem!
However I didn’t care for the lack of detail of Katniss’s mental state. Katniss is broken after the Quarter Quell. I’m talking fetal position, rocking back and forth, reciting what she knows to be true. “My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am seventeen years old. My home is District 12. I was in the Hunger Games. I escaped.” Etc. In the book she’s been labeled mentally disabled, avoiding integration back into society, and ignoring her schedule mostly by hiding in various nooks and crannies throughout 13. She ran through the list once at the very beginning of Part 1, and mentions it again at the very end of Part 2. Two instances does not equal an adequate portrayal of having somewhat-consistent mental breakdowns. It isn’t until the other victors have been extracted from the Capitol, and she and Johanna begin training to be put in the field, that she really starts to collect herself and sharpen up. Because after they get Peeta back, the only thing Katniss is interested in is killing Snow.
Released 11/20/2015 Rated: PG-13
I feel like I’m going to have to watch this one a few more times for me to really absorb it and figure out my feelings for it. It was good— not Catching Fire amazing— but good. Some things were changed, naturally, but I guess what’s bothering me about this final installment is what they left out.
Part 2 did not focus on Peeta’s reintegration and healing process at all. Those were some intense, and defining scenes for his character, and would have shown more light on how damaged he is. Making Finnick and Annie’s wedding cake was therapeutic for him. Under supervision, he and Katniss are around each other in 13, and he’s very frosty towards her because he’s struggling with his memories, more so than him just yelling at her once while strapped to a bed. And it’s not just Katniss, it’s Finnick and Gale too. Peeta doesn’t trust any of them, and shows it.
I can understand why they left out the combat training going on in 13, but it would have been nice to see. I did want more Johanna, and training would have fulfilled that. Coin’s argument at putting Katniss in the field in Part 1 was due to a lack of training. Yes, she’s proficient with the bow, but she’s been in and out of the hospital for so long. Training was supposed to build her physically to handle being in combat, understand the idea of the pods, and teach her about guns, not that she ever used one. Peeta was supposed to be training too, which would have made him showing up while they’re in the field more of a understandable choice, instead of just them going “We’re going to show him fighting for us now.”
Certain aspects almost felt as though they happened too fast. I only glanced back at the book after seeing the film, and apparently I don’t remember things very well, but I remember there being more of a struggle, or at least head-butting, between Katniss and Coin. Or at least more people putting the idea in Katniss’s head that Coin might not be the right choice to lead the New Panem. Boggs mentions it once, but after that, it’s just at the end that we consider Coin may not be as wholesome of a leader as she’s made herself out to be. That turn, if you haven’t read the books, seems to come out of nowhere.
Then there’s Prim. [SPOILER ALERT] That just seemed to happen way too fast. Katniss is not good with handling emotions, so it makes sense for her not to dwell on her sister’s death until Buttercup shows up at the house (which, btw, that scene killed me). However, I feel they could have taken out the 30 seconds of them hugging at the wedding with the camera circling them, and either slowed down the scene where the rebel medics swoop in before the second bombs go off, or replayed just Prim looking up at Katniss in the chaos of it all. Help the audience really understand and feel what just happened, because that’s the moment Katniss’s world really falls apart.
And last, but not least, the fight with the Mutts in the sewer, which is another big scene. While the fight did last a decent amount of time, (which I appreciate) there was way too much shaky-cam going on for as many people participating in that fight as there were. I had a hard time understanding who I was watching until some defining features became visible. Katniss gets thrown against the ladder and falls under the water, and I had no idea it was her until they showed her coming back up for air, after cutting from another section of the fight. Everybody looks the same in the dark!! It might have been more impactful if they had modeled it more after the monkey-fighting scene in Catching Fire.
Between the two, they could have worked a little harder to incorporate certain details, and set up Part 2 a little better. All I’ve done is point out what’s lacking and what would have made them better movies in my opinion, but they still did a very good job. I’m just too much of a purist when it comes to what I’ve read beforehand. Definitely check it out!