I think everyone has heard of The Hunger Games. The sales figures for the books are said to number 50 million, but the films grossed $1,169,814,624. That’s over one billion dollars, add on another few hundred million for the books, and you’re looking at a book that everyone’s heard of. It sparked off a craze for dystopian books, particularly amongst the young adult genre as it seemed that us teens enjoyed thinking about how bad the future could be. I have previously read all three of the trilogy, I decided to re-read the third, Mockingjay. Susanne Collins has done a fantastic job with the writing, though it is slightly odd in several ways.
As seems to be the way when film executives sense a film will do well, the trilogy became a quartet for the big screen, and that means one thing: lots of fillers. Mockingjay Part 1 was in itself a fairly lengthy affair, and used every single thing it could from the book and more in an attempt to squeeze four hours of film out of one book.
philosophical, deep, and gripping: what’s not to like?
The plot in both is similar. Protagonist Katniss Everdeen is fighting the authoritative Capitol having survived two ‘Hunger Games’. The nation is led by President Snow who keeps power with an armed police force of ‘peacekeepers’. The Capitol leads 11 other districts, who all supply materials to the Capitol. At the end of the second of the trilogy, Catching Fire, Katniss was rescued by the legendary district 12, believed by the other districts to have been destroyed in a previous rebellion. There, the leaders of the rebel region try and make Katniss a true figurehead of the uprising, to try and appeal to the other districts to stand up and fight. All this happens whilst her friend Peeta is trapped in the Capitol, playing the opposite role to Katniss: trying to quell the rebellion.
Obviously a book sells well when it is a good read. Having a good plot that will stand up is a bonus, but the basic necessity for a bestseller is that it grips the reader, putting down a good book is not an option. It is not you who holds the book, but the book that holds you. That is precisely what Collins has done here, this riveting read has a stronghold, a grasp, and does not let the reader go until the very end. It is interesting to see how an author ends a series, which loose ends they tie up, which characters they join or separate-and Mockingjay is a cracker. There is some fulfilment, but the shocks do not stop until the last page, the plot twists and turns this way and that. It is no different in the film, we are glued to the screen desperate to know how it’s going to end.
Yet I feel Collins ruins it a little. She has worked a magnificent, volatile, and unpredictable ending, which is spoilt with an epilogue. In some books (namely Harry Potter), and epilogue is suitable, it fulfils the story and gives a sense of completion, of coming full circle. In Mockingjay, it is unnecessary, and I don’t like it, it feels (dare I say it) slightly corny, like a fan make epilogue. The end of the final chapter would have been a fitting and better way to leave the reader.
does not let the reader go until the very end
What I particularly enjoyed in the novel was the way Collins presented choices. The vast majority contain two ways; that which idealised and perfect characters would choose, and that which the actual character (and the majority of the readers) would choose. There is a tough choice as an author between sacrificing the perceived purity of the protagonist, and making a book too ideological. Collins walks that line, and (though there was one where I felt the story was the wrong side of the line), it was gritty and realistic. Though that can cause some questioning of fundamental human nature, it was highly realistic.
Mockingjay Part 1 also plays with human emotions, though more with the viewers than with the characters. One of the main things that I found particularly memorable was the beautiful and haunting take on the lyrics Collins invented in the book, which were here given an eerie tune which will stay with me for a while, it is definitely my favourite part of the film.
My last gripe with the novel is the slightly odd choice of narration. First person present tense is unusual in modern literature, and as such it was a little distracting to read to start off with. However, one soon becomes used to it, and it gives the story a contemporary feel. In addition to this, I feel that the opening is a little clumsy, Collins attempts to give new readers a feel to where they are at, but it feels forced and stilted, and is awkward reading for those veterans of the first two novels.
If you have a choice of what to do with two hours though, read the book. It will grab you and not let you go, and have you genuinely feeling for the characters and their choices throughout.
I stare at my shoes, watching as a fine layer of ash settles on the worn leather.
Overall-philosophical, gripping, and deep-what’s there not to like? ★★★★★ (98)
Overall (film)-gripping, not as deep, but a fairly accurate copy of the book-★★★★