Last weekend – in between the excitement of the final days of NaNoWriMo, an interesting writing course and GB winning the Davis Cup – I got to see the final instalment of The Hunger Games at the cinema.

The Hunger Games trilogy is one of my favourite book series and I’ve really enjoyed the movies. In my opinion, they are some of the best adaptations around. The filmmakers have been extremely faithful to the books and each actor has portrayed their character perfectly; I have no complaints with the casting at all. In fact, I now can’t read the books without imagining Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. She’s that good.

(Book and movie spoilers ahead!)

And The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part Two (longest title ever?) did not disappoint. As with the previous films, it stuck very closely to the book, with some scenes word for word and straight off the page, including one of my favourite moments:

“You’re a painter. You’re a baker. You like to sleep with the windows open. You never take sugar in your tea. And you always double-knot your shoelaces.”

The relationships between the characters develop exactly as they do in the novel. We watch Katniss and Peeta’s slow progress back to one another while, simultaneously, Katniss and Gale drift apart. Her final words to him are cutting, an excellent scene:

“Goodbye Gale.”

The exception to the above is Effie Trinket, who was not originally meant to be in Mockingjay. She was brought back for Mockingjay Part One (a good move, I thought), providing some continuity between all four movies without having to introduce yet more new characters to movie audiences. Of course, with Effie around, this allowed the writers to have a little fun with the final movie and the scene where Effie says goodbye to Katniss and Haymitch is straight from the fanfiction archives. I couldn’t help but giggle when Haymitch kisses Effie goodbye. A popular non-canon ship is now (sort of) canon, thanks to this film.

At this point, I should probably say that Haymitch will forever be my favourite character. Thank you Woody Harrelson for being brilliant.

So did I have any complaints? Yes, one. Johanna. She wasn’t around much at all – just a little bit at the beginning and a little bit at the end – which is sad because Jena Malone is also brilliant. I suppose it does make sense as the one major cut to Mockingjay is the long-winded training exercises in 13. Instead, Katniss hides on a hovercraft and sneaks out to the front line to join the Star Squad. It works, but still, I missed Johanna.

With the sad loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman before they wrapped the Mockingjay movies, I wondered how they’d cope without Plutarch for the final scenes (assuming, of course, that they shot roughly in order). It appears that they got around this by using previously shot footage for some of the group scenes – I noticed it at Snow’s execution. But the scene when Katniss awaits her punishment is where his absence is felt the most: an emotional scene, made more emotional by the real-life loss. Haymitch reads Katniss a letter from Plutarch and, at this point, I realised the scene was originally meant to be Katniss and Plutarch instead of Haymitch. (I later read this Guardian article, confirming it.)

Finally, I have to talk about the end. I didn’t cry when I thought I would cry, not after any of the character deaths; I guess I saw them coming. Instead, I saved my tears for the moment back in District 12, when Katniss finds Buttercup sneaking back into the house. Yes, I cried because of a cat.

Then there’s Peeta planting primroses in the garden, the letter from Annie, the coziness of them adjusting to life back in 12 and, finally, Peeta asking Katniss that important question:

Peeta: “You love me. Real or not real?”
Katniss: “Real.”

The final scene (the book’s epilogue) is sweet and understated. Peeta plays with his son in a meadow, holding out a dandelion to him. That was a lovely little nod to readers of the book as Katniss describes Peeta as the “dandelion in the spring.” Meanwhile, Katniss watches on, cradling a child in her arms; a child she would have never allowed herself to have if The Hunger Games still existed. She tells the child in her arms about her nightmares and how she copes, but saying that “there are much worse games to play.” Beautiful.

So, that’s my take on Mockingjay Part Two. What I’d like to do now is read all the books and watch all the movies again back-to-back because, well, why ever not?

Originally posted to Tumblr on 5 December 2015

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