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“Mockingjay” Into Two Parts Was a Good Choice

Trend Indexing: Dividing the final movies of a franchise into two parts has been controversial since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows did so back in 2010. This was then followed by Twilight: Breaking Dawn, and eventually The Hunger Games: Mockingjay. By the time Mockingjay was released, the magic of the two-part finale was waning, and other series suffered for it. However, this didn’t work for every franchise. Divergent, another very popular YA series, was left unfinished after the first half of the final film bombed and the studio decided it was not worth it to move forward. The Hobbit Trilogy also had trouble with its bloated expansion of the book. The Maze Runner successfully concluded as a trilogy of films. Yet, it did wonders for Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. And, despite Francis Lawrence, director of three Hunger Games films and the upcoming prequel, now regretting his choice to adapt Mockingjay as two separate parts, it was the right decision for the source material.

Francis Lawrence Was Right to Split ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay’ Into Two Movies

Natalie Dormer and Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 Image Via Lionsgate

While talking with People magazine about adapting The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, the prequel film based on the novel of the same name about a young Snow being groomed into the brutal President we know him to be, Francis Lawrence mentioned he was adamant this upcoming film be done as one because of his feelings about splitting The Hunger Games: Mockingjay. “I totally regret it,” he said of splitting Mockingjay. He goes on to explain that it is frustrating to wait a year for a conclusion, but also notes that with the combined four-hour runtime they “got more on the screen out of the book than [they] would’ve in any of the other movies.” The previous films never had the time to delve into some of the things that Mockingjay finally had the time to explore. Without it, Mockingjay would have crashed and burned.

This Left More Room to Explore the Plot From ‘The Hunger Games’ Book

The Hunger Games First Film Poster The Hunger Games

Created by Suzanne Collins

First Film The Hunger Games

Latest Film The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

Upcoming Films The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

When Francis Lawrence came aboard for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, it was clear the franchise was in good hands. The Hunger Games, while a largely faithful adaptation, did cut out some major elements that we never got to see, including Katniss’ (Jennifer Lawrence) hearing loss and Peeta’s (Josh Hutcherson) loss of one leg after their time in the games. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 has a lot going on, as Lawrence made the call to adapt nearly everything from the book. Peeta, Annie, Joanna, and a number of other tributes have been taken captive by the Capitol, and they are experimented on and tortured. Katniss finds herself the face of the revolution in District 13 while her mental state is breaking down, with only her mother, sister, and Gale reminding her of her home in District 12, which has been leveled by the Capitol as retaliation for her actions. All the while, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is not backing down. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 then chronicles Peeta’s brainwashing after they rescue the tributes, Katniss and her closest friends becoming the “Star Squad” to film propaganda in the war-torn streets of the booby-trapped Capitol, a quest to film her killing Snow, and Katniss’ eventual assassination of President Coin (Julianne Moore).

The novel itself isn’t much longer than its predecessors. However, one of the main criticisms of it is that it was rushed and glossed over important character moments. If these two movies had to adapt all of that with a two-hour runtime, even a three-hour runtime, it would not have been enough. Even now, some elements in the films feel rushed, but it breathes much better. In some instances, the films even improve on the novel, as it can take more time. We are no strangers to three-hour films, but a four-hour film? That would be a lot to sit through, and there’s no doubt studios would want to shave down that runtime for more showtimes. Mockingjay would have been a shadow of itself without the time it had. What hour of footage could have been cut? Nearly everything is essential to not only build the anticipation of the revolution but also to show the audience the horrors of war and the effect it has on Katniss and the other victims.

Splitting ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay’ Allows for More Character Development

Josh Hutcherson and Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 Image Via Lionsgate

By far the best thing about The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is the smaller character moments. While some call it boring, would The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 have worked as well without the development? No. This movie still has a few fantastic action sequences, like the destruction of the hydroelectric dam and the start of the revolution. It has devastating sequences like the bombing of the hospital, followed by Katniss’ unforgettable, “If we burn, you burn with us!” speech. These are huge parts of the film, but we get so much more. Katniss and Prim (Willow Shields) were never truly given enough screen time, but we get a lot more of their sibling relationship here and Prim growing up to be a doctor. Prim’s development here makes her senseless death even more shocking. The same goes for Finnick (Sam Claflin), whom Katniss can connect with. We learn a lot about his character, including how he was forced into sex work under the threat of killing his loved ones and his therapeutic knot-tying. We even learn about Snow’s proclivity for consuming poisoned drinks himself to deflect suspicion, resulting in bleeding sores in his mouth that will never heal because the antidote doesn’t always have its intended effect.

We also get to spend a lot of time with Katniss that we wouldn’t normally have had time for, especially her tumultuous relationship with President Coin. When the pieces finally fall into place in Mockingjay Part 2, and she realizes that she’s being used by everyone, the slower scenes are worth it. The added runtime from having two films allows us to see her suffering and how that suffering is used by others. She was used by President Snow, Peeta has been used to torment her through Snow, and she’s been used by President Coin. She’s been used by everyone. It’s a horrifying cycle of exploitation that she seemingly can’t escape.

‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay’ Parts 1 and 2 Do the Story Justice

Julianne Moore as President Alma Coin in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 Image via Lionsgate

Boring. A cash grab. Unnecessary. These are all things that have been said about Mockingjay Part 1 and Part 2. But, looking back, there was no other way to do right by the source material than adapting it into two parts. One film would not have had enough time to delve into the story as far as both did and would have resulted in a shallow and bitter end to the franchise, which is one of the best and most bittersweet finales out there.

Though they had a lull, two-parters are making a resurgence. Dune: Part 1 was a big success for Warner Brothers during the pandemic and Dune: Part Two will be making its way to theaters in the spring. Splitting Dune into two parts is the only way to do justice to that classic novel. Even Universal’s adaptation of the hit Broadway show Wicked will be split into two films, starting next fall. So, while there may have been harsh reactions to Mockingjay being split into two parts, it was ultimately the right decision for the story.

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