In the recent boom of big-budget film franchises based on young adult series, it’s nearly impossible to escape a comparison to Harry Potter, Twilight, and, more recently, The Hunger Games. Based on the trilogy by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games franchise follows Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), and Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) who live in a futuristic dystopia called Panem. The country, split into 12 districts, holds an annual event - the titular Hunger Games - where children between the ages of 12 and 18 fight to the death.
The first two films of the franchise, The Hunger Games and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, revolve around two consecutive years of the competition. However, the next movie in the series, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1, will mark the first film in the franchise to escape the arena and delve into the rebellion sparked by Katniss, who is known as the Mockingjay.
In a recent interview with EW, director Francis Lawrence talked about the upcoming two-part finale of the franchise, based on Collins’ final Hunger Games novel, Mockingjay. In addition to discussing the love triangle between the series’ leads (which will remain alive and well in the Mockingjay movies), Lawrence revealed that the final films will contain “two different, very distinct stories.”
Read Lawrence’s full quote:
“Those objectives became the motives for us. This is where the meaning of the entire series comes into play. The answer to why these books exist exists in 'Mockingjay,' and that’s really been exciting to me. That’s been kind of what I’ve hung on to through these stories.”
In terms of the war brewing in Panem, Lawrence said Mockingjay - Part 1 will delve into the psychological impact the Hunger Games have had on Katniss and how that affects her role in joining the rebellion as its Mockingjay symbol. The upcoming film will offer a first glimpse of the war, depicting battles from the novel in order to keep the movie as close to the source material as possible.
Lawrence said he worked closely with Collins, screenwriter Peter Craig (The Town), and returning producer Nina Johnson to avoid major changes from the book series while surprising fans all the same. The team behind Mockingjay - Part 1 achieved this goal by expanding on elements already found within Collins’ series.
Read Lawrence’s full quote:
“Instead of changing the plot and changing characters what we did was have the opportunity to show scenes that could have been happening at different times in the book. For us it’s world expansion instead of changing things. I think it’s exciting for the fan to see certain things. So we’ve been able to open the world up in this and see some new places. We get to see some new districts this time and the scope gets quite large.”
One of the aspects Lawrence said they expanded is the role of rebel President Alma Coin (played by Julianne Moore) who is a significant character from the books but doesn’t actually appear very much.
For fans of the book series, all these developments by Lawrence and his team should offer hope that Mockingjay - Part 1 will continue their success in adapting the Hunger Games novels to the big screen. In fact, all the changes and expansions made when adapting Mockingjay seem to assuage those readers who complained the majority of final book felt too rushed.
Collins, who managed to set up a slow-burn rebellion of the lower classes of Panem against the upper classes, was forced to depict the rebellion, war, and aftermath all within the scope of a single young adult novel. As a result, the story may have deserved to be split into two novels - and some could argue there is a clear divide roughly two-thirds of the way through Mockingjay.
Those fans that felt cheated by the sprinting pace of Mockingjay could find what was missing in Lawrence’s Mockingjay - Part 1 and Part 2, which will hopefully delve into those plot threads that readers felt were wrapped up too quickly. However, depending on which elements from the book are expanded, the films may not be able to improve too much upon the fast pace of the novel.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 opens in theaters on November 21st, 2014; Mockingjay - Part 2 follows on November 20th, 2015.