The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2: here's how the film differs from the book
For the most part, the final Hunger Games film is remarkably faithful to Suzanne Collins's novel - but there are some interesting differences
Devotees of Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy can be an exacting lot when it comes to movie adaptations of the books – remember the furore caused when the very first film played havoc with its cat-colours and gave us (horror of horrors) a black-and-white Buttercup?
Luckily, after viewing the final film in the series, even the most pedantic of fans should have little to complain about: for the most part, Francis Lawrence’s The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2 is a remarkably faithful adaptation of the latter half of Collins’s Mockingjay.
As in the previous films, key characters – vengeful heroine Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), traumatised, brainwashed Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), ambitious District 13 leader Coin (Julianne Moore) and ruthless President Snow (Donald Sutherland) – are all vividly realised, alongside the sterile, military world of 13, and the dying decadence of the war-torn Capitol.
Crucially, the film also doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the book’s more hard-hitting aspects. As in the novel, Katniss’s sister Prim is killed after the Capitol (apparently) bombs its own defenceless citizens; it is later indicated that the rebels, rather than the Capitol, were responsible for the atrocity. The tense execution scene, and the flight of Katniss’s fateful final arrow – its direction driven by her realisation that the leader of the good guys is as corrupt as her nemesis Snow – are also masterfully enacted.
But, while these essentials remain untouched, we still spotted a fair few ways in which the film diverges from its source material. Here’s our round-up of some of the most interesting.
Plutarch is more of an unambiguous hero
After the tragic death of Hunger Games actor Philip Seymour Hoffman last year, which took place before filming was complete, director Francis Lawrence managed to finish the film using footage he had already shot. But the director may also have paid tribute to Hoffman by turning his character into more of a straightforward “good guy” than was originally intended.
In previous films, Hoffman always played Gamesmaker turned rebel mastermind Plutarch Heavensbee with just the right amount of ambiguity: when he looked at Katniss, you could never quite if he was regarding her with benevolence and admiration, cold calculation, or a speculative mixture of both.
In the books, we never really get an answer about who Heavensbee is really working for. His appointment as secretary of communications in Panem’s new government, set up after Coin’s death, could suggest that he’s a talented opportunist, who’ll always find a place in the winning side.
On the other hand, he does seem to genuinely care for Katniss, acting as a star defence witness at her trial, and telling her “don’t be a stranger” before he leaves. He also expresses a tentative hope that the new peace will “stick”, and that there won’t be any more bloodshed.
In the film, however, his intentions are made much more explicit. A final letter, delivered to Katniss after she shoots Coin, reveals that Heavensbee was never a supporter of the power-hungry rebel leader, and had been secretly rooting for Katniss to bring her down – and usher in true democracy – all along. It also reveals that he “chose” to rescue Katniss and turn her into the Mockingjay for this very purpose.
Snow and Coin “meet”
With his bloody, poison-rotted mouth and passion for sweet-smelling white roses, Snow is an undeniably fantastic bad guy – part eccentric Bond villain, part scheming, Machiavellian politician, and part charismatic cult leader, hidden beneath the guise of a kindly white-haired grandfather. But because the books are written in the first person, from Katniss’s point of view, we sadly don’t get to see all that much of him in them. One of the most exciting things about Mockingjay Part 2 – about all the films so far, in fact – is the inclusion of additional scenes, set in the corrupt palatial heart of Panem, that allow us glimpses into Snow’s mind (Sutherland’s chilling performance obviously also helps quite a bit).
Perhaps the most interesting takes place after the rebels hijack the airwaves, interrupting Snow’s announcement of Katniss’s death with a broadcast from Coin, in which she introduces herself as the rebel leader.
In the books, we watch the broadcast from Katniss’s point of view, and the emphasis is on Coin’s hypocritical response to Katniss’s presumed death. But in the film, we get to watch Snow’s reaction to the interruption – and see a look of recognition spread across his face, as he realises exactly what he’s up against: not a naïve young girl, but a leader as skilled and manipulative as himself.
In many ways, it’s a perfect moment: encapsulating the symmetry between the two leaders (the rebel president and the dictator are really two sides of the same “coin”), and allowing them to meet face to face.
Katniss sneaks off to join the mission
In the book, Katniss, is sent on a mission to the Capitol, to join the ranks of a risk-free “Star Squad”: her role is to shoot propaganda promos, and be part of the “televised face of the revolution” . As in the film, she secretly plans to break away and take down Snow herself.
But in Mockingjay Part 2, the rebels’ reluctance to put her anywhere near the front line means that she is initially forced to sneak on to a departing airship, travelling without Coin’s permission.
The main significance of this change is that we get to see the effect her disobedience has on Coin. While Plutarch seems vaguely amused – “I love it when she goes rogue” – the District 13 leader is furious that Katniss has defied her. This adds credence to later suggestions (in both book and film) that Coin really wants Katniss dead.
Katniss doesn’t murder a stranger in cold blood
“Without hesitation, I shoot her through the heart”.
The line above, from Collins’s Mockingjay, occurs after Katniss and her small group of allies are hiding out in the Capitol, and enter a house they believe to be abandoned. After being interrupted by its presumed owner – a woman clutching a half-eaten sausage , who opens her mouth to call for help – Katniss instantly shoots her.
The inclusion of this death is important: it shows that, in war, even our heroine is forced to commit atrocities – in this case, the murder of a defenceless, unarmed civilian – in order to survive. The brevity of the killing scene (it’s over in seconds, and Katniss doesn’t dwell on it) also hints at the brutalising effects of repeated trauma.
The filmmakers weren’t quite as brave: perhaps fearing that the murder would make Katniss too unsympathetic, they opted not to include it in the film.
The ending is happier
This difference is the hardest to pin down, as it’s mostly a matter of tone.The epilogue to the Hunger Games trilogy reads pretty bleakly: set years in the future, it suggests that Katniss and Peeta have managed to find some level of peace, living together in the rebuilt District 12, and raising their son and daughter – “my children, who don’t know they play on a graveyard”. The text also reminds the reader of the nightmares “that won’t ever really go away”. In order to survive, and avoid being overwhelmed by horror and despair, Katniss says: “I make a list in my head of every act of goodness I’ve seen someone do, It’s like a game. Repetitive. Even a little tedious after more than 20 years. But there are much worse games to play”.
In the film, her words are barely changed. But, thanks to its soft gold lighting, cute baby Katpeeta, and idyllic rural setting, the final scene can’t help but emphasise the more positive side of the speech: the healing, rather than the scars. Despite its last line, by the time the film ends, the Hunger Games feel very far away. In the book, you’re left with the impression that, for Katniss, they’ll always be close.