Book vs. Movie - The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
By Ben Gruchow
November 28, 2016
In Book vs. Movie, we look at novels of any genre and compare them to their feature-film adaptation. This will not be a review of the merits of either version of the story, but an essay on how each version of the story acquits itself within its medium. After analyzing both versions of the story, we’ll arrive at a verdict between which medium is more successful at telling its story, and whether any disparity between the two can be reconciled in a way that doesn’t impeach the winning version. Spoilers ensue.
The Hunger Games trilogy
The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins, is about the nation of Panem (which has grown out of the remains of North America following catastrophic events), its 12 “districts,” each specializing in the production of a valuable resource for the central autocratic Capitol, their creation of a grisly, televised fight to the death between children called the Hunger Games, and a growing rebellion against the Capitol’s tyranny. The first book introduces us to 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, both of District 12. They are responsible for the first dual victory in Hunger Games history. Katniss is our protagonist and a central figure in a populist rebellion that grows over the course of the trilogy. This rebellion escalates into warfare and comes to its conclusion in the third book, Mockingjay, and the fourth film, Mockingjay Part 2.
Note: To address the bifurcation of the adaptation, we will consider only the second half of the source novel.
Mockingjay Part 2
The rescue of an abused and emaciated Peeta Mellark from the hands of the Capitol, and the subsequent reveal that he has been tortured into the role of deranged sleeper agent - made to see Katniss Everdeen as a threat and a monster and driven to kill her on sight - arrives almost exactly at the midpoint of Mockingjay, and it forces the story into a kind of reset. We are acquainted with two of the three other prisoners taken in the aftermath of the Quarter Quell: Johanna Mason and Annie Cresta (the third is District 2’s Enobaria; she is alluded to and briefly glimpsed but never really constitutes a factor in the story again).
The main story of Mockingjay’s back half concerns itself with a military incursion into the Capitol by rebel forces comprised of virtually every District in Panem. Alma Coin, the President of District 13, spearheads the incursion from a strategic perspective. One of these strategies is to deploy a unit several days behind the front lines of battle, termed the “Star Squad” and existing principally to continue producing and airing propaganda films for the benefit of the rebels - and Capitol citizens, during the increasing instances where they can break through security. To this end, the Star Squad consists of Katniss, Finnick Odair, Gale, and most of the previous members of the film crew: Cressida, Castor and Pollux as cameramen.
The complicating factor is the existence of pods: landmine-like traps set by the remaining Gamemakers in the Capitol, designed to kill anyone unlucky enough to trigger them. This has the effect of transforming the rebels’ incursion into the Capitol into a bigger and randomized version of the Games; the city basically becomes another arena.