Mockingjay

REVIEW: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015)

Teamed with a group of her closest friends – including Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Finnick (Sam Claflin), and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) – Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) goes off on a mission with the unit from District 13 as they risk their lives to stage an assassination attempt on President Snow (Donald Sutherland) who has become increasingly obsessed with destroying her.

While Katniss and her team have to take part in guerrilla-style warfare, the themes that have been prevalent throughout this series are still there. Katniss’s march through the boobytrapped Capitol is like she’s back in the Arena and both President Snow and President Coin (Julianne Moore) are doing their best to manipulate the situation and Katniss to their advantage.

Josh Hutcherson deserves a shout out for his performance in Mockingjay – Part 2. Naturally Jennifer Lawrence is still fantastic and she is really the glue holding this franchise together, but in this film, Hutcherson gets to do more than just be in love with Katniss and be a way for her to show her softer side. Peeta has been tortured and had his mind manipulated while being captured by the Capitol and as he slowly starts to break out of the confusion of not being able to trust his own mind, Hutcherson’s performance is often both impressive and heart-breaking.

Katniss and her team’s mission is tense and exciting as boobytraps of any kind can spring up out of nowhere and when Peeta joins the team he’s a wildcard that gives Katniss extra stress. There’s a couple of moments of levity at the beginning of Mockingjay – Part 2, mostly down to Finnick and Annie (Stef Dawson), but really it is almost relentless grim as it doesn’t shy away from the realities of war and Katniss has to face losing the ones she cares about in a way she hasn’t before.

Sure, an argument can be made that Mockingjay should’ve been one film (like many last books in YA series film adaptations) but it really is a solid end to a series of films that have always been somewhere between good and fantastic. I think The Hunger Games films are some of the best adaptations of YA books and is truly the high point of an influx of dystopian media we had a decade ago. Mockingjay – Part 2 is an impressive and satisfying end as it pulls together all the themes and characters the series has been dealing with. 4/5.

REVIEW: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

After escaping the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) reluctantly becomes the symbol of rebellion against the Capitol.

From the outset Mockingjay – Part 1 looks distinctly different from the previous two film. After the lush greens of the first arena and the bright sun, sand, and water of the second, life in District 13 is tinged in grey. It suits the setting as so much is set underground though certainly some of the night/dark scenes could’ve been lit a bit better.

Here we have a Katniss who is full of guilt and regret for leaving Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) behind and it’s only when she has President Coin (Julianne Moore), the leader of District 13, pledge to rescue Peeta and the other victors captured by the Capitol that she agrees to be the Mockingjay – the symbol of hope and rebellion for the people.

Cutting the final book in a YA book to movie adaptation series became the norm after the success of both Harry Potter and Twilight so it was little to no surprise that The Hunger Games went down the same route. This does mean that Mockingjay – Part 1 has far less action than the previous films as now not only are Katniss and Peeta no longer in the arena battling to the death, but instead it focuses more on Katniss’s state of mind as the conflict between the Districts and the Capitol grows. That’s not to say there aren’t any “action sequences” – Katniss and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) get caught up in a Capitol bombing – but they are few and far between and instead the tension and drama is more character focused.

A key part of the Hunger Games has always been how well the tributes can make themselves likeable and appealing to sponsors as that’ll help them survive. This take on the PR and propaganda machine takes a different turn in Mockingjay – Part 1. Former Head Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) plans to help the rebels by filming a load of propaganda films of Katniss to inspire the rebellion. It’s a pity Katniss works best when she’s not following a script. Just as District 13 are using Katniss in their propaganda, the Capitol is using Peeta and though the two of them are barely together during the film you can see how Katniss’s love for him (whatever kind of love that is) is still strong.

One of my favourite sequences in this whole series is in in this film. It’s a moment where Katniss sits by a lake with her film crew and sings a song called “The Hanging Tree” which is taken up and echoed by the mockingjay birds in the woods. That song is then used for one of Plutarch’s films and then a rallying cry for the people as they take a stand against the Capitol. The score by James Newton Howard is especially effective in this sequence too.

Nothing highlights the criticisms this series has on media/entertainment and how we consume it (both in the films and the books but especially in the books) than the fact that there were multiple upbeat techno versions of “The Hanging Tree” made and released. Using a song about a murdered man, a song with themes of freedom, death and martyrdom, as an upbeat song just feels very strange and wrong. I remember hearing one of the remixes when I was driving and doing a doubletake when I registered why the lyrics sounded so familiar but the beat did not.

Mockingjay – Part 1 lays a lot of the groundwork for the battle ahead and different character dynamics are given room to breathe like Katniss and Finnick (Sam Claflin) and Katniss and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) which continues to be one of my favourite and the most interesting relationships in this series. 4/5.

Thoughts on… rereading The Hunger Games trilogy

Warning for vague spoilers for the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.

Over the last few months, I’ve been rereading the Hunger Games trilogy for the first time since I first read them around 10 years ago. I wasn’t intending to revisit the series but I was looking for an audiobook to keep me occupied on my way to work and found my library had the trilogy and it was narrated by Tatiana Maslany which is always a bonus.

When I read the trilogy the first time, I did really like it but I remember not being too impressed with the final book, Mockingjay, and how the series ended as a whole. I was never Team Peeta or Team Gale so that wasn’t the reason but as they were so similar, I thought Katniss would end up like Haymitch, bitter and alone, so any type of happy ending for her didn’t really work for me. Having reread the series now I like Mockingjay a lot more and I’m more content about Katniss’s “happy ending”.

As well as not having reread the books before, I’ve not watched most of the films since I saw them in the cinema so while I remembered certain big moments or things like how it ended, I didn’t remember how it got there and various character dynamics. So, in some ways it was like experiencing the story for the first time.

I really enjoyed rereading the trilogy with the benefit of hindsight too. Characters like Johanna Mason were mentioned in like the fourth chapter of the first book and when you don’t actually meet her until half way through the second. Also, as the books are in the first-person point of view, everything’s from Katniss’s perspective which can be both interesting and frustrating with the benefit of hindsight. There were so many times when I could see the rumblings of a rebellion, or what Haymitch or Peeta’s true intentions were thanks to my knowledge of the overarching plot but Katniss was oblivious more times than not. That’s not to say she’s dumb, she’s incredibly smart and impulsive but she’s not a tactician like those two, or like Gale. She has a single-minded focus on the people she cares about which is admirable but it means she’s a bit clueless about what’s going on around her and how she’s affecting it – consciously or not.

This could be because it’s been so long since I’ve read the books/watched the films but I think took in a lot more of the nuances of the story this time round. For instance, I’d completely forgotten about what Finnick had to do once he’d won his games so that was like a sucker punch when I got to that reveal. Also, I don’t know if it’s down to being older or having read a lot more books about tougher topics since, but I think I could comprehend and sympathise with Katniss’s trauma a lot more this time round. She, and so many other characters but especially the other Victors, go through so much it’s no wonder they have PTSD and at times their minds just shutdown because they can’t cope with the reality of their situation.

All in all, I’ve really enjoyed revisiting the trilogy and they are all 5 star reads – though Catching Fire is still my favourite. I’ve not read the spin-off/prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes yet but I’m waiting for the audiobook to be available at my library. I’ve heard mixed things about it but after rereading the original trilogy I’m interested in seeing what Suzanne Collins did with a prequel. I’m also planning on rewatching (and possibly reviewing) the films too. Like the books, I remember enjoying the films and I think they were good adaptations so it’ll be interesting to see if that perception stays the same.

Have you read or reread the Hunger Games trilogy recently? Or seen the films? I always get a little apprehensive when revisiting a book or film I have fond memories of but I’m pleased in this instance I wasn’t disappointed upon reread.

Magical Readathon: Autumn Equinox TBR

It’s the most wonderful time of year – meaning it’ll soon be August and Magical Readathon time! The Magical Readathon is the brainchild of Gi at BookRoast on YouTube and it’s time for the seconf lot of exams. Previously the Magical Readathon was based on Harry Potter and its exams but Gi has now created her own magical world and university and it’s truly impressive. Like the previous iteration of the Magical Readathon, the aim is to read books that fill the prompts for the subjects you need to pass in order to be able to do the magical career of your choice. Gi’s announcement video explains it all and she has a variety of documents that can guide you. This round of the Magical Readathon, the Autumn Equinox exams, is a month-long readathon through the entirety of August.

In these exams/readathon instead of reading one book per subject, there’s now three levels – Ordinary, Qualified, and Distinguished – and depending on what qualifications you need for your chosen career you might have to read one, two or three books for a subject.

As I keep forgetting what my character’s biography is I’m going to make a note of it here and now. I am a human from the urban area of Kerador. I’m in the Archivists Guild, my Legacy is Aitvaras which is the Phoenix God of Sky and Riches, and my conduit is bone – I like to think I have a bracelet made of bone.

Originally the career I was aiming for was Moon Warden (and that will still be my priority) but I’m also interested in being an Illusionist Rogue. For Moon Warden I need a Qualified in Astronomy and Restoration and an Ordinary in Elemental Studies and Spells & Incarnations which totals to six prompts/books. That’s definitely doable for me so I’m going to throw in the exams to become an Illusionist Rogue for an extra push. Those are a Distinguished in Art of Illusion, Ordinary in Psionics & Divination and Shapeshifting making it five more books/prompts.

Astronomy: Ordinary – Letter “L” in the title
A Spare Life by Lidija Dimkovska
Set in 1984 A Spare Life follows twins who are conjoined at the head, their life as they grow up considered freaks by even their family, and how they struggle to decide if they want to be surgically separated from one another.

Astronomy: Qualified – Books featuring archers/rangers
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
I’ve been rereading the Hunger Games books via audio from my library and I’m looking forward to finishing the series. Katniss is most definitely an archer so I’ve held off starting Mockingjay until August as it was the perfect book for this prompt.

Restoration: Ordinary – Single object the main focus on the cover
I, the Supreme by Augusto Roa Bastos or Foxfire, Wolfskin and other Stories of Shapeshifting Women by Sharon Blackie
My first choice was I, the Supreme which is a fictionalised account of the nineteenth-century Paraguayan dictator José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia but the pdf version of that looks a bit hard to read (formatting is all over the place) so if I don’t get another version before I need to read the prompt, I’ve got a short story collection of myths and fairy tales.

Restoration: Qualified – Oldest book on your TBR
Beyond the Rice Fields by Naivo
Technically I probably have some books that have been on my TBR longer but as I’m trying to prioritise my Read the World Project books, I’m counting Beyond the Rice Fields as I got the ebook in August 2020 which was a while ago now. Beyond the Rice Fields is set in the nineteenth century and it’s about the relationship between a slave and his master’s daughter.

Elemental Studies: Ordinary – Start a book with a drink
Saga Volume 7 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
This could really be any book but as I reread volumes 1-5 of Saga in the Spring Equinox part of the Magical Readathon, I thought it’d be nice to carry on with the series during this readathon. I’ve previously read up to Volume 7 and it’s been nice revisiting this world and the characters and I’m looking forward to continuing.

Spells & Incarnations: Ordinary – Pick a book based on a random colour (blue)
Ali and Nino by Kurban Said
I used a random colour generator I found online and the colour it chose was blue which features heavily on the cover for Ali and Nino which is romance between a Muslim Azerbaijani boy and Christian Georgian girl in Baku in the years 1918–1920.

Shapeshifting: Ordinary – Book with wings on the cover
Saga Volume 6 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
Most volumes of Saga feature a character who has wings but only a few of them can you see the wings on the cover. This is the next volume I need to read and you can see Alana’s wings.

Art of Illusions: Ordinary – Book you don’t know much about
The Fury and Cries of Women by Angèle Rawiri
My read for Gabon is definitely one I don’t know a lot about. I think it follows a woman’s life through university, to marriage and motherhood and how she deals with all of that.

Art of Illusion: Qualified – Book under 300 pages
Saga Volume 8 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
Again, it’s always a good idea to have short books/graphic novels/comics during a readathon and this volume will be all new to me.

Art of Illusion: Distinguished – Book based on a prompt from the Spring Equinox
Unpregnant by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan
I went for the Artificery prompt which was Earth setting. So, a contemporary YA about two ex-best friends going on a road trip so one of them can get an abortion fits the bill.

Psionics & Divination: Ordinary – Book featuring time travel
The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
I don’t think I have any time travel books on my shelves but I searched my library and found The Psychology of Time Travel is available on audio. I usually can get through a couple of audiobooks a month so once I finish Mockingjay I’ll borrow and listen to this one.

Are you taking part in the latest Magical Readathon? If so, what’s on your TBR and what career are you aiming for?