Why the Mockingjay movie was better than the book

Mockingjay, the third instalment of the Hunger Games series, has finally hit theatres. The first two movies showed children fighting each other to the death in the Hunger Games, a televised reality show. This time, it gets even darker.

Where Catching Fire, number two in the trilogy, left its viewer with the feeling that revolution was coming, now, Mockingjay has lost all of this urgency. It serves more as a stepping stone for the last Hunger Games than anything else.

But what it does well is depicting the highly manipulated televising of a revolution as well as what happens to those who dare to revolt.

Once again, Jennifer Lawrence returns as Katniss. Last time we saw her, she unwittingly beat the series’ villain, President Snow, who rules and oppresses this world. Now, Katniss features as the unwilling symbol of a revolution. She literally spends her time underground in District 13, the only free district, being groomed as the face of revolt by those leading the revolution.

Promo shot Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen
Promo shot Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

Usually the cliché “the book was better” rings true by there is at least one point Mockingjay makes that lends itself exceptionally well for the medium of film. That is the exposure of the PR behind Katniss as symbol of the revolution.

The PR for the revolts was visually set out in such a way that the viewer can’t help but be appalled at the way the revolution is televised—the masterminds of the counter-movement are shown to be as manipulative and ruthless as the dictator they want to overthrow.

Nothing embodied this type of manipulation better than Cressida, the rebellions media editor. Played by Natalie Dormer (also known as Marjorie from Game of Thrones), she follows and films Katniss’ every move.

The most shocking scenes of the movie are those of Cressida reacting to the devastation sown by the Capitol forces: she turns scenes of devastation into opportunities. So the bombing of a hospital becomes a prime opportunity for some promo footage.

Cressida filming devastation by bombs
Cressida filming devastation by bombs

Cressida is shown multiple times literally telling Katniss to look into the camera for promo shots in such a way it comes across as undeniably manipulative and cold to the audience. Overall though, this makes for a nice “behind-the-scenes-behind-the-scenes” look at framing and directing.

Katniss is positioned in situations where her reactions will feel “real” (for instance, when she is led to her now devastated hometown).

Katniss sees what’s left of her home, District 12



Though she is made into a symbol, and shown as a willing one in the promos, throughout the movie she only begrudgingly works with the makers of the revolution.

The shooting of the promo-shots did provide some comic relief: Katniss is heavily made up, positioned in front of a blue screen, and reads her revolutionary lines from an autocue—of course she fails.

Lawrence herself was propelled into fame quite suddenly and has become a fairly constant media presence who seems to know how to work the PR-side of things. Maybe she borrowed from this experience for Katniss effective eye-rolling at her managers.


By Maria van Loosdrecht


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