I arrived at George Street Odeon and sat down to hear members of the packed cinema in a dialogue of mockingjay whistling — the Hunger Games trilogy has clearly made an impact on a large number of people. And rightly so. The story spans enough genres to have everyone interested: fantasy, romance, action; you name it, it’s there. The dystopian world of Panem is at times more harrowing than Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
The Hunger Games is probably the best adaptation I have seen of a book series, and the latest release Mockingjay Part 1, is no exception to this. The casting remains astounding: this film introduces Julianne Moore as President Coin, Elden Henson as Pollux and Natalie Dormer as Cressida, to name but a few, all of whom fit perfectly the characters in the book. I was not at first convinced at the justification for this new fashion for dividing the final film of a series into two, which began with Harry Potter, and was followed by the Twilight saga’s Breaking Dawn in 2010-2011. The Hobbit, which is a third of the length of each of The Lord of the Rings books, astoundingly has been divided into three parts: clearly a method to stretch out the material to make as much money as possible. However, Mockingjay is the most complex of this series and I realised, watching the first part of the film, to do justice to the serious content of this final instalment, dividing the films into two is somewhat necessary.
Mockingjay is probably the most difficult of the three to adapt, since it does not have the continuous action of the first two novels. The characters spend most of their time static in the underground of District 13, removing the use of exciting changes of scenery in the first two films. The dialogue in this fi lm, then, is especially important for the purposes of retaining interest, and it does this whilst being both realistic and moving. I was particularly struck by the ability of Jennifer Lawrence to show a real sense of grief and the effects of trauma on her character.
Katniss is shown to be strong willed, but also human, and she is troubled to an appropriate extend after her experiences: she has a three-dimensional personality, and is an excellent example of a powerful and authentic female character.
The film was able to portray the most unpleasant scenes with sensitivity. This was particularly the case in the scene set in a makeshift hospital in District 8, in which we were able to see enough of the wounded to be shocked, but not so much that it became a horror film. The same applied to Katniss’ deeply shocking visit to the fire-bombed District 12 to find a heap of charred bodies. I don’t recommend seeing it alone.
I can’t have been the only one to miss the presence of the lovely Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, who spends the majority of the film imprisoned in the Capitol. His attempted rescue, the final sequence of the film, is a terrifying experience: seeing Panem’s version of Room 101 saw me resist the urge to hide behind my notebook. It was a great shame that Peeta’s attack on Katniss due to his new, ‘hijacked’ state resulted in large numbers of the audience laughing. In a way, I thought that this was due to an inability on the part of the audience to cope with feeling shocked, but it must surely have been possible to film the scene in such a way that didn’t allow the viewers to laugh as a result of their disbelief.
Not that this ruined the film. I was unable to stop thinking about what the story has to say about the nature of oppression, and the effect of war on the innocent. I almost wish that The Hunger Games could somehow be used to encourage an interest in politics in its early-teen fanbase. Most importantly though, I suggest you see the film soon before the Odeon runs out of free posters.