The crucial thing that needs to be addressed in Mockingjay: Everything Katniss doesn't see

While it was news, it was hardly unpredictable that the third installment of The Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay, was going to be split into two movies. It makes perfect sense; it's the densest, heaviest book in the series. (Heavy as in "Doc, that's heavy.") But while the year-long gap in between these releases might be cause for alarm for die-hard fans, the part of that story that we should all be the most concerned with is how it's told and how it will be adapted. I'm referring to the first-person perspective of Katniss Everdeen.

The entire book is about things happening without her knowledge, and us (the readers) only finding out about really important things when she does. That really can't happen in a movie, let alone a two-parter. Because that will be very annoying.

Possible spoiler alert: I will be talking about things that happen in Mockingjay, which happen as a result of things that happen in Catching Fire, so if you don't want to be spoiled, you might not want to come any further. Instead, for something else to do, here are The Hunger Gifs.

The final book in Suzanne Collins' series is pretty wild, with Katniss convinced into acting as the symbolic leader of the rebellion against the Capitol that instituted the Hunger Games and then seeing that the rebellion's leadership was not much better than the Capitol after all. It's a dark, violent, and graphic story that started out disturbing enough, and for several people, it was a little less easy to read. When I read the first two books, I breezed through them. This is significant because while I think books are great, I am just not a reader; it takes me forever to read books. Mockingjay reminded me that no, I had not suddenly become one of those groovy people who devour books. It took me considerably longer to muddle through that one, and I wasn't alone.

Because while we muddled, so did Katniss. Mockingjay, while a good book, might as well have been called Mockingjay: In the Dark, because that's pretty much where our hero was for the bulk of the book. While all this warfare and rebellion and planning was going on, we were inside the head of the girl who wasn't supposed to know about any of it. Surprises and plot twists are one thing, but how are they going to make two movies out of that?

But it's not as if Lionsgate and the producers of The Hunger Games haven't run into this problem before because, obviously, the first book was also told from Katniss' perspective. And they did a pretty decent job of dividing the focus between what Katniss saw and what was happening outside of her (extremely) limited view of things. But they will have to amp that up big time for all three sequels, especially Mockingjay.

Oh, you probably wanted to know when those two movies are coming out: Mockingjay Part 1 will hit theaters November 21, 2014, Mockingjay Part 2 on November 20, 2015; Catching Fire is coming November 22, 2013. (via io9)


  1. Whaaaaaa?


    That book was a pile. The whole book is a total departure from the books reality. Suddenly we walk into the japanese version of Hunger Games, where emotional plight is the strongest weapon, until something melts you. Everyone went nth crazy! No perspective. It’s honestly like the writer just gave up.

    In fact I call into question the writers skill. I don’t think Collins realized that this story would require a world. The first two books used the world as pest to be shooed away. People starve but they have cream that can totally regrow skin. The disparody of.. everything went to outlandish proportions. It isnt a fantasy book, yeah yeah I know, So I want all the pieces to fit you know?

    Anyway, I tried to not spoil too hard and it may just be nonsense now.

    1. YES. I thought I was going slowly insane with everyone around me saying how great the trilogy is. It’s like Dan Brown all over again. Sure, the first book was good, great even. It’s like a tightly wound screenplay with perfect pacing. But what happens when you can’t repeat the battle-to-the-death dynamic 2 more times? Crap. Crap happens.

    2.  Agreed. Third book was shit. I too was confused as to why people were so excited about the whole of the series. The first book was the only true success, the second was a fluke and the third was just terrible. No cohesion, the “everything suddenly happening to katniss” perspective just made the story infuriatingly haphazard.

  2. It’s about time that they came up with a better way of showing long films than releasing them in two chunks a year apart. There has to be a better way. Intervals? I dunno. But releasing films with huge gaps in the middle is strange.

    1. I like the format of The Game of Thrones, doing it in a series works perfectly. It lets the producers relax, breathe, and open up the world and the characters a lot more.

      I felt that the first movie from the Hunger Games completely misrepresented Katniss. She has so much doubt and internal dialogue that is just completely absent from the Movie. Also, the movie made it seem like she was into Peeta during that time in the cave when in the book she was much less attached.

      It also didn’t very accurately portray how hellish the first hunger game was. The movie made it seem like it was a quick little affair that even left you time to keep your hair shiny.

      tl;dr: the books are better than the movies. always.

      1. Always?  Really?

        I went to the movie, liked it, and was motivated to read all three books in about a long weekend.  My view was that the first movie was better than the book.  The pruning of the angst and uncertainty made for more direct storytelling, something that movies need more than books.  Put another way, the simplified story served as a better foundation for a movie than the fuzzy, more complex story made for a book.

        Different strokes, I suppose, but I’ve always felt it unfair to compare books and movies.  They work different ways and the first movie worked quite well on its own.   YMMV.

        PS – One exception and a point on which I entirely agree with you – the first games could have been miles more bloody, gritty, hellish, and painful.  Such would have been an improvement.

      2. The movie was bloody awful. My wife and I, who’d both read the book and quite enjoyed it, went with some other friends who hadn’t. We had to explain damn near everything that took place because if you hadn’t read the book, it made no sense at all.

        Also, the movie was all wrong, for a MOVIE. It simply adapted the book scene by scene. The movie should have begun with the actual Games, and let the cheesey announcers fill us in with the background. Just crappy, lazy filmmaking: total waste of some decent acting.

    2. They’re trying to stretch a finale of a big ticket series into two tent pole films for separate movie-going seasons. That film probably doesn’t really need to be two films, but because it’s pretty much guaranteed to get lots of people coming into the theaters, buying tickets and concessions, and watching previews for other movies, they’ve spread it out for four years so their financial spreadsheets are all planned out in advance. It’s a big, but fairly safe, bet around the series considering its popularity and viewer lock in.

  3. Sorry to be a snob and a grump, but… don’t we come to boingboing to get away from things like how the movie industry is going to adapt the current teen-lit phenom? This isn’t exactly weird or wonderful.

    1. New entertainment editor means a slightly new and different Boing Boing.

      Jamie’s a welcome addition as far as I’m concerned. I’ve been enjoying the difference so far, even though I have no intention of watching the Hunger Games movies.

    2. Not to sound like I’m telling you to get the fuck out of here, because I assuredly am not and don’t know how to phrase this any less abrasive, but I’m sure your refund will be processed promptly if you ask for it.

      Mitt Romney demanding an apology and correction from a newspaper reporting facts isn’t weird or wonderful. Well, actually, it is kind of weird, but only if you’re unfamiliar with politicians.

      The battle over accessing safety codes isn’t weird or wonderful. McDonalds’ iron fist over the supply of fried potato bits at the London 2012 Olympic Games isn’t weird or wonderful, it’s just a depressing and abusive contract clause. (I hope someone at the IOC has an uncomfortable twitch every time I make sure I say “London 2012 Olympic Games” without authorization every time I relate anything to do with the current games, but that’s beside the point.)

      One man’s cynical sign of the oncoming corporatipocalypse is another man’s blog post. And the middle ground position is, well, you can skip over it. I just now noticed that the Submitterator is back up again (I’m slow), too, so there’s a certain degree of input from us readers available. 

  4. The entire book is about things happening without her knowledge, and us (the readers) only finding out about really important things when she does. That really can’t happen in a movie…

    It happens often in movies (or used to before trailers started acting as Cliff’s Notes), especially suspense/mysteries. Every Hitchcock movie ever made hinges on the fact that the audience has as little information as the protagonist does. That’s where the feeling of suspense comes from: we don’t know why these things are happening any more than our hero does, but we anticipate finding out.

  5. I loved the first two books, Hunger Games and Catching Fire. I did not like Mockingjay at all. This is the book where Katniss channels her inner Bella :)

  6. I loved the Hunger Games book  and the audio versions. The movie was though, was horrible. Mainly, because the entire thing was shot handheld with a slow shutter. This basically means the entire movie was a shaking, blurred, mess.  The DP really dropped the ball. No idea what he was doing. You save handheld shots for tense moments, when you use it the entire movie it has no effect outside of making your audience sick. That, coupled with the shutter speed, makes it unlike a movie like Gladiator or Saving Private Ryan. In those movies you see every detail, every sword swing, or piece of dirt flying through the air on the beach- that’s a fast shutter effect. In the Hunger Games everything was slurred, and shaky- I couldn’t even see what was happening most of the time. It’s not hard to do, but because of this I found the movie horribly un-enjoyable. Please tell me they have a new DP.

  7. My main beef with the books is that so many plot points hinge on the TV feed being live to air.

    Apparently, the world has forgotten how to do a 7 second delay or even a “live” event that is really recorded a day earlier and edited if required.

    Awkward questions in interviews, dramatic ultimatum moments in the Games, etc. would all be easily handled in post-production and the status quo would go on quo-ing.

    I’m prepared to suspend disbelief on all the other silly bits, but this kept hitting me in the face and dropping me out of the narrative.

    1. If there aren’t opportunities for the protagonists to break their message through, then this becomes a cynical and nihilistic exercise in watching stormtroopers suppress hope and crush dissent. Star Wars would’ve run for 15 minutes if Princess Leia’s message to Obi-Wan was intercepted and destroyed by the Empire, Luke would’ve stayed a nobody on some backwards planet, and the galaxy would remain in the grip of a fascist power-mad lightning-throwing dick.

      Without leaving the heroes holes (in logic, strategy, or timing), every story involving a power conflict like Hunger Games/Star Wars/The Lord of the Rings/etc. would read like Harrison Bergeron. The entertainment-consuming public prefers things that make them happy and help them escape daily life over cynical dystopic downer plots. (Usually; at least, publishers and movie execs think they do.)

      You can’t let your villains be TOO efficient in stopping the heroes or else you’re just writing a depressing fictional account of a brutal regime.

  8. I have to heartily disagree with this post. The movie adaptation of the first book would have been far superior if we were limited to the protagonist’s point of view, as we were in the first 15 minutes or so. After we got a view of what was happening elsewhere, it became much less interesting and intense.

Comments are closed.