One of the many reasons why The Hunger Games was a breath of fresh air in YA adaptations was that Katniss Everdeen was no Bella Swan. In theTwilight Saga, Bella was someone to be fought over and fought for, whereas in the Hunger Games, Katniss fought for someone else. Self-sacrificing and brave, Katniss was a true heroine.
Or was she?
Who can forget the scene where Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) stepped in for her kid sister Primrose to participate in the Hunger Games, a state-mandated gladiatorial event that puts two-dozen teenagers in a futuristic death-match—a Battle Royale, if you will. She fought and survived the game, and kept her integrity intact while doing so.
But that’s forgetting the first half of The Hunger Games, in which Katniss is forcibly taken to Capital City, where she’s dressed-up, made-over, coached on what to say to gain sponsors, and trained to survive the Hunger Games arena; she’s acted upon, passive, not much different than Twilight’s central character. The point is, Katniss didn’t start out a heroine. She became one.
The second film, Catching Fire, similarly followed a two-part structure. A retread of the first film, Catching Fire was yet another teenage gladiator movie, too similar to its predecessor. But where Catching Fire was redundant as part of a trilogy, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I is redundant within itself.
Mockingjay – Part 1 stretches a single book into two films by repeating events. On three different occasions, Katniss visits districts destroyed by the Capitol, the oppressive government of Panem. Two of those visits are videotaped by the rebels and broadcast to the citizens to inspire them to join their cause, which forces us to watch the same thing five times. Three times, the Capital makes broadcasts of its own to counter the rebel’s propaganda, and twice the Capitol sends aircrafts to bomb the rebels, lead by President Coin (Julianne Moore).
Sure enough, the film makes a full two-hour running time, and yet the story is deliberately incomplete and inherently frustrating. Mockingjay – Part I is not a movie. It’s half a movie.
The two-part division denies us the part of the story where Katniss stands up and fights for what’s right, her heroism, the reason that she’s so popular and admired as a character. Even when she has the chance to do something heroic, the story won’t let her: for most of the film, Katniss’s love-interest Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is held by the Capitol, but Katniss herself does not participate in his rescue. It’s appalling, that of all protagonists in the YA craze, Katniss Everdeen becomes a spectator in her own story because of studio greed. Without the second half of the story, she’s a helpless girl being lead around by the hand, another Bella Swan.
Now, I’m not saying it’s not worth watching. I’m saying that The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I isn’t worth watching on its own, and waiting a year for a payoff is ridiculous. A day will come when both Mockingjay films can be binge-watched at home. But I see no reason to pay twice to see one movie.