Monday, December 8, 2014

Mockingjay (Spoilerish)

Anyone who knows me knows I like The Hunger Games. (They also probably know my rather controversial opinion that the entire thing is mis-marketed and should not be considered Young Adult).

I was very worried, though, about Mockingjay on film. First of all, the splitting into two movies which has become a trend sadly exemplified by Jackson's Hobbit, which has definitely consumed too many second breakfasts. Second of all - both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire really read as books written to be filmed.

Mockingjay doesn't. The book is about what war does to people, to individuals. It's deeply psychological and shows a disturbing understanding of PTSD, losing one's humanity, and other forms of insanity - and there's no way you can film that. Books and movies are different media.

The movie worked because it didn't try. Understanding that the task was impossible, writers Peter Craig and Danny Strong (with an adaptation credit given to Collins herself) and director Francis Lawrence chose to tell a different side of the story.

The book is about what war does to individuals.

The movie is about what war, especially civil war, does to nations.

And as that, it works. Destruction, rubble, fields of skeletons - these things film well in a way the inner workings of the mind don't.

My criticisms are minor and in at least one case personal.

1. I didn't like how they did District 13. I'd always envisioned command bunker combined with nuclear fallout bunker. The filmmakers apparently envisioned giant missile silo. (Ironically, some of the visuals were nearly identical to the space station/bunker in Interstellar, albeit bigger). I also had an argument with Greg - I thought the movie District 13 was more sinister than the books. He disagreed. Ah well.

2. The split was done at a good spot, but. They had a very strong end point, and then carried on for five minutes after it. I think it would have been a much stronger movie if they'd ended after the fight between Peeta and Katniss.

3. Peeta's falling apart was too subtle. You need to overplay things like that, and we shouldn't be needing the rest of the cast to tell us he's messed up while he sits there looking perfectly fine.

High points:

1. Natalie Dormer as Cressida. She was unrecognizable (I had to look her up to realize who she was) because of what they did to her hair, but she was clearly channeling a nice mix of the directors she's known.

2. R.I.P. Philip Seymour Hoffman. You were a great Plutarch Heavensbee. Nobody could do it better.

3. Effie's complaining about her missing wigs and acting as if she was still in the Capitol. Awesome. And yes, people do go into that sort of denial.

4. Pollux using actual ASL in the drop ship. Apparently he said "Isn't she hot?" (I don't speak ASL, so...)