Amongst the generally positive reaction to the Mockingjay Part 1 teaser this week, was MTV’s backhanded compliment of an article about the teaser. I’m not going to link to it, because I don’t want to help the post with any more traffic, but it was titled ‘Mockingjay’ Teaser Proves The Movie Will Be Better Than The Book. The writer liked the tone of the teaser and has high hopes for the movies based off this 1 minute piece of propaganda. So in terms of movie marketing, a job well done at converting a naysayer to the movie, I suppose.
But what really irked us about the article was how the book was described.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the “Hunger Games” books. I’m a dyed-in-wool Tribute, through and through. But the book “Mockingjay” is a bizarre ending for the trilogy, spending the majority of its running time with a near catatonic Katniss refusing to step up and be the hero we want her to be.
She gets addicted to drugs, mostly engages in publicity ops rather than action and only does anything remotely heroic at the very end of the book; though even her eventual call to action is a move that feels very much like giving up.
Not the greatest fodder for a movie, let alone two movies…
We’ve got A LOT of problems with basically all of these statements. It’s “fodder” for several posts, actually. He’s way off base to summarize Mockingjay as Katniss being some doped up drug fiend who does nothing throughout the story due to some weakness of character. But this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this type of shallow synopsis of the story, either. There are definitely people out there who just DON’T GET Mockingjay.
Through the past several years, we’ve seen a creative resurgence in comic book movies. From Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy to Joss Whedon’s Avengers, and a lot of other movies from the Marvel and DC universes. Many of these movies have been fantastic. Good story, characters, special effects, humor. Thanks to these movies, we’ve enjoyed lots and lots of heroic journeys for the past several years. And most of these movies have been hugely successful at the box office.
So in this world of big comic book super hero movies comes the Hunger Games movies. Movies based on a book series about a corrupt society with vast wealth disparity. And a girl who does something brave to save her sister which sets off a chain of events that she never expected and by no means was prepared to deal with. While Katniss Everdeen’s journey does share some thematic elements with those of comic book super heroes, SHE IS NOT A SUPER HERO. She has a big heart, great survival skills, and she’s good with a bow and arrow, but it is grossly unfair to judge her through a super-hero lens. I think a lot of people who view Mockingjay negatively do so because they were expecting Katniss to just dust off the trauma of Catching Fire and enthusiastically lead the rebels herself. Cause, you know, that’s what heroes do, evidently. Step aside Coin and Plutarch, this 17 year old introverted girl is ready to lead a rebellion! How unrealistic is that? And even if you insist on judging her next to super-heroes, let’s remember that Nolan’s Batman got so depressed that he hid away in his mansion for 8 YEARS. Let’s let Katniss hide in some closets for a month or two and deal with the grief and guilt of losing Peeta. If she didn’t show such a level of despair over Peeta, Mockingjay’s critics would probably label her a cold bitch, so the girl just can’t win.
To be clear, even though Katniss Everdeen is not a super hero, it doesn’t mean she’s not a hero. It means she’s not some larger-than-life character. Sure, Capitol propaganda in Catching Fire tries to make her seem that way, and the District 13 rebels try a similar approach in Mockingjay. But the REAL Katniss Everdeen, she doesn’t have any special powers or technology or money to make her super-humanly strong or powerful in other ways. SHE’S A GIRL WITH A BIG HEART WHO IS ALSO GOOD WITH A BOW AND ARROW. Her realness and relatability is what so many fans love about her. It’s because of her heart that she undertakes the heroic journey that leads her to the events of Mockingjay.
What is Mockingjay? It’s dark, it’s challenging. It’s a psychological drama, political thriller, a story of war and sacrifice and death. It says that war is ugly and unfair and the damage done doesn’t get miraculously repaired at the end but takes years to heal.
Suzanne Collins did not write Mockingjay to become a super hero action movie. No one should go into either of the Mockingjay movies expecting to see a super hero action movie. But the plot, the characters, the dialogue, the depth of the themes DO INDEED make it fodder for two great movies.
Two movies with powerful themes that stay with you long after the credits roll.