Amanda Jay's Take on: Mockingjay Part Two

Deserves an Encore: Mockingjay Part Two, the Review

Image Credit: Lionsgate Films

Wow, what a finale. For what is arguably the weakest book in the Hunger Games trilogy, the second part of the final installment was my favorite. I am not a Panemaniac; I am not a person who swears the Hunger Games is the greatest series of all time, or who believes Katniss Everdeen is someone to be emulated.  Instead, I fall into a particularly unique niche in Hunger Games fandom: I hate Katniss Everdeen.


"Hate" may be a strong word. Suzanne Collins, author of the trilogy, has created a world that is as lush as it is brutal, as vibrant as it is sparse, and as relevant as it is desolate. Panem is a world that could easily exist in reality, and that does exist for some people, in some places. The brutality of the Hunger Games is its great draw, in my opinion. It proffers an excellent opportunity for parents, students, and readers in general to discuss the implications of many things, such as freedom, politics, poverty, family, kindness, courage, selflessness, and resilience.

Katniss is a character that embodies traditionally celebrated traits, like courage, loyalty, and determination, yet she is not heroic; her motivations are, for the majority of the series, relatively selfish. All of those qualities, especially in the beginning, are used for her own survival, to the detriment of other characters. Not at all a typical Young Adult heroine. Katniss is written with a simple, pragmatic voice, devoid of the dreamy quality so typical of the female protagonists of the genre (a prominent example is Bella Swan of Twilight) and lacking entirely in the humor of other protagonists of the genre (Percy Jackson, Leo Valdez, Carter and Sadie Kane, Harry Potter, and Rose Hathaway, to name a few).  She most closely resembles Tris of the Divergent series in her tone and characterization, but Katniss possesses a self awareness that is generally lacking in YA characters. To use a colloquialism, she knows she ain't shit. And this knowledge of ain't shitness is what makes her so complicated. It's why I cannot hate her, because she knows she's selfish and she's ok with that.

Katniss is the narrator for a reason. If Peeta Mellark was the narrator, or Gale Hawthorne, or Primrose Everdeen, the story would be quite different. Katniss would be viewed as a sympathetic character; a beautiful, tragic heroine. Instead, the readers are privy to Katniss' motivations, her struggles with conventional morality, and, dare I say it, her bloodlust. Katniss represents the average person; what would the average person do if raised in this bleak, unforgiving, hopeless world and then thrust into a battle to the death, not once, but three times? We would get awfully close to breaking (she did). We would make some tragic decisions (she did). And we would be brutally honest about what we were willing to sacrifice and how we would try to live with ourselves (she was). She is not like Peeta, who is the ideal; we should all strive to be as clever, as kind, and as patient as Peeta. We should emulate the love Peeta has for life and for others. We would be as magnanimous in our intentions, our deeds, and our concessions. However, for all of Katniss' differences when compared to Peeta, she is not the unchecked fury that is Gale. The militance, the willingness to inflict misery and pain on the innocent, all in the name of war... these are the traits that highlight Katniss' strong points. She's not a saint like Peeta, but the world hasn't turned her into a demon like Gale.

Back to the film, Mockingjay Part Two was a pleasant surprise. 

Photo Credit: Lionsgate and Popsugar.com

Since Harry Potter started the two-part finale with The Deathly Hallows, The Hunger Games is not the first series to follow suit. The Hobbit was one novel into three movies and Twilight also split its final installment into two movies. Many moviegoers feel this is just an attempt to wrassle more dollars away from unsuspecting patrons, but it generally has worked in the favor of true bibliophiles. The Mockingjay films were no exception. As I stated before, Mockingjay was my least favorite book of the trilogy, but is now my favorite movie(s). I'll come back to this in just a moment.

My big gripe with the media surrounding the Panemanic community is the focus on the love story and the casting. Maybe this comes with age (I read the first book when I was 22), but the main focus of the story to me was the 1,776 children that died in the Hunger Games BEFORE the story is even started. I could not really bring myself to get past the violence or the hopelessness of it, and it was a much more emotional experience for me than for other fans whom I've talked to. Every child that died in those stories, every victor, every senseless death I felt as though I knew the characters (damn you, Finnick!!) because I was so invested in this world where twelve year olds were slaughtered and the killer would celebrate... the killer, who was only 3 years older.

Now that I've explained where my head is, I can fully explain why I loved this two parter so much. Anything shorter would have cheapened the (albeit fictional) deaths of these characters. The actors (with the very stauch exception of Liam Hemsworth... like, ok. You're cute but you cannot act.) are phenomenal. Jennifer Lawrence is, unsurprisingly, splendid. She makes Katniss a real girl, with real emotions. Confusion, which is a very difficult emotion for most actors to display, since it is especially internal, is an emotional state that defines Katniss very clearly; confused about how she feels about boys, about murder, about her mother, about the Capitol, about her very existence. Jennifer Lawrence plays this SUPERBLY. COME THREW, JENNY. COME THE FUCK THREW.

While J.Law is COMING THE FUCK THREW, Josh Hutcherson proves consistently why he was casted. When I first saw the cast list, I thought it was a little unfair; Josh and Liam are not physically in the same phenotype. What kind of love triangle is so unbalanced? However, I realized in this film how thoroughly I miscalculated. Josh can A. C. T! His tortured, psychotic Peeta could have won an Oscar, if this was an Oscar kind of film. Josh also has this kind of sincere thing that he does with his eyes that will have you dreaming about him late at night when bae fucks up. Yes Josh, YAS. The supporting cast is quite superb, as well. You couldn't ask for better actors. Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson did the damn thing, per usual. And thank God for an author who ADAPTS HER OWN SCREENPLAYS. Suzanne Collins, you're the GOAT (yes, Riordan, I am coming for your neck). She seamlessly incorporates canon (what's in the book) to the screen by giving you a full look at what's going on in Panem, between the Big Bad President Snow, District 13 Command, and the main characters. You miss none of the exposition from the books because SUZY MADE SURE TO PUT IT IN (yes, Riordan, I am coming for your neck)!!

Speed asked me to touch on this, so I shall: was the Hunger Games trilogy whitewashed? Simply, no. Collins is very careful to describe people ambiguously. I am not entirely sure why, but I tend to think of it as the Bella Swan Effect; by not describing the characters TOO thoroughly, a reader can imagine themselves as the character they most identify with, rather than the one they most resemble physically. In a book with more diversity, like any of Rick Riordan's books, there is no need for this; but in a tiny, unstable world, ambiguity is a value-add, especially for readers of color.

The problem with this ambiguity is that it allows people to create and become attached to characters in their mind without definitively saying "Katniss is White; Gale is White; Rue is Black.” So when the promos came out, so did the racists. I will admit, I did envision Katniss as a Native American. The braid, the olive skin, the comfort with nature not found in the construction of what sounded to me like a reservation or concentration camp. Was I angry that they cast a White girl? No. Because she did the damn thing, and because I didn't care that much. It was never explicitly stated, so no harm no foul. My imagination just didn’t match reality.

In conclusion, go see it. It is definitely worth the money. It is definitely worth the conversation. And if you're anything like me, it is absolutely worth the tears.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

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