Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen
Since the words “Part 1” are in the title, most moviegoers were probably well aware that they were only to get half a movie when they walked into Mockingjay, the two-film farewell to The Hunger Games franchise. Still, as several reviews have pointed out, the specific stopping point the filmmakers picked might be the most underwhelming mid-story break since The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions. If you haven’t seen the film yet, may the odds be in your favor as you fight opening-weekend crowds for a ticket. For those of you who have just emerged triumphantly from the theater, look below for our spoiler-laden take on the film’s final moments.
Even in its complete book form, Mockingjay was a divisive final chapter, with some fans feeling that too many loose threads were left dangling — and that Katniss herself was ill-treated by author Suzanne Collins. (For a character who had been at the center of the action in the two previous books, she had a propensity for getting sidelined in Mockingjay, missing some key events due to injuries.) Grumblings about the film will likely boil down to the fact that the filmmakers have saved many of the book’s big moments and set pieces for the second movie; Mockingjay – Part 1 essentially functions as an extended prelude to a war that we won’t see for another year.
Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne
In place of F/X-heavy actions sequences, the film focuses on Katinss’s own scarred psyche as she allows herself to be used as a propaganda tool by the District 13 rebellion, as well as her own concern for Peeta, currently held captive by President Snow back in the Capitol. Part 1 builds to his eventual rescue by a crew of rebel soldiers (including her other kinda-sorta boyfriend, Gale) and the revelation that he’s a violent shell of his former self. Thanks to a Snow-prescribed regimen of torture and Tracker Jacker venom-aided brainwashing, her former partner in the Arena is ready and willing to strangle the rebellion’s figurehead to death. The movie cuts to black on the image of Katniss gazing through a Plexiglass pane at Peeta writhing in his hospital bed.
It’s a quiet, downbeat conclusion to a movie that’s already pretty glum, even by post-apocalyptic standards. Not that The Hunger Games series has exactly been known for its sunniness and optimism up to this point, anyway, but the previous two installments do climax with moments in which Katniss defies the odds and achieves a significant victory. Given the fact that things only get worse for her from this point, there’s no real way to award her with a similar send-off in Mockingjay – Part 1, at least not without doing some fairly significant re-writing. (And there’s already a fair amount that has been changed in the book-to-film translation, including bringing Elizabeth Banks’s Effie to District 13 and beefing up the presence of Julianne Moore’s President Coin.)
But the filmmakers arguably could have pushed the narrative forward a bit to conclude on a more stirring cliffhanger. For example, instead of cutting away just as Peeta and Katniss reunite, how about letting us see some of the rebels’ attempts to bring his brain back online? The onscreen relationship between Josh Hutcherson and Jennifer Lawrence has always been one of the strengths of the series and Mockingjay suffers from the extensive time they spend apart. (Sorry, Liam Hemsworth fans—the guy just doesn’t do much to win folks over to Team Gale.) A final scene where Peeta manages to break through his mental fog and recognize Katniss without lunging for her throat would have inspired emotions beyond depression.
Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark
Another option would have been to allow the film’s closing moments to reveal the rebellion’s next step — taking their fight directly to the Capitol — and President Coin’s questionable decision to let Peeta join the campaign. Picture an ending where a mentally unstable Peeta and an emotionally unstable Katniss board a plane bound for battle, both uncertain what the future holds. That’s some Empire Strikes Back-level cliffhanging right there. There’s a lot to like about Mockingjay – Part 1 (Lawrence’s singing voice, the return of Buttercup and the Philip Seymour Hoffman tribute in the credits), but it maybe needed to end on more of a bang than a whimper.
How do you feel about the ending of Mockingjay – Part 1? Does it make you excited for more or do you wish it was over already? Give us your feedback in the comments below.