Warning: Spoilers ahead for the Mockingjay book and "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2" movie.
Sorry, everybody who hasn't read the books: The final "Hunger Games: Mockingjay" wasn't made for you. With hardly any recap of the events from "Part 1," Katniss and co. dive straight into the thick of the Districts' rebellion against the Capitol -- or at least as much as President Coin (Julianne Moore) will allow.
As with any beloved-YA-book-turned-blockbuster-movie, it's fun to see a glittering production of the story we'd only imagined played out by 20-foot-tall actors. The movie follows Katniss' (Jennifer Lawrence) journey to the Capitol step-by-step as close to its printed counterpart as possible in two hours -- much of the dialogue is identical to Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay. But that's where the similarities to the original book end, completely shortchanging the emotional complexity of Collins' hero. Skipping from action scene to action scene, "Part 2" rushes by Katniss' reflective moments that we glimpse in the book -- and she's got a lot to think about at this point.
'Part 2' rushes by Katniss' reflective moments that we glimpse in the book -- and she's got a lot to think about at this point.
After two Hunger Games, Katniss finds herself reunited with the family she fought to protect, only to see them wrapped up in her rebellion, too. Their safety, and hers, is still out of reach. She's afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder -- a dash of refreshing realism from Collins -- and develops a painkiller addiction. (Meanwhile, none of the other victors are faring much better.) The ethics of battle are weighing on her conscience as the micro version of war she experienced in the Hunger Games arena blows up to Panem-sized proportions. To make matters worse, Katniss likely could have stayed home for all she accomplished in her secret plot to murder Snow on her own, which was a tragedy that was probably always necessary for Collins' to complete her critique of media and military and, more generally, power -- not even our hero could score herself a total win. By the end of the book, having fought against her role as a pawn of the Capitol, and then the Rebels, Katniss is nearly spent. Understandably so.
Jennifer Lawrence does a wonderful job with what she's given. But part of the problem with any "Hunger Games" movie is how inherently difficult it is, without a voiceover, to get inside our hero's head. Maybe director Francis Lawrence should have considered that tactic. Or maybe he should have turned the camera from Katniss during some of her recovery, allowing her to recoup and give other characters time to shine.
As Katniss coped with painful memories and an uncertain future, we might have been given a better peek into Peeta's (Josh Hutcherson) struggle with his identity, or some of the other victors' efforts to feel normal again. We might have caught Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) -- always an amusing presence -- trying to adapt to a new, less glamorous life. We could have watched Prim (Willow Shields) find her calling as a healer, or Gale (Liam Hemsworth) as a fighter. (Good luck, non-book-readers, trying to follow the hasty moment of drama between Katniss and Gale when she realizes a bomb he helped design may have killed her sister.)
Instead, Francis Lawrence crafted two hours of twisted boobytraps and suspenseful silence where Collins had added a level of internal struggle related to mental illness not commonly seen in young adult fiction. A couple scenes have Katniss bumping heads with Gale over his take-no-prisoners approach to rebellion, but it's not nearly the struggle for physical and mental survival that we see in the Mockingjay book.
Plenty of fans will surely be pleased by the fourth "Hunger Games" movie, which is certainly a gripping two hours of theater time. But it won't satisfy those who enjoyed Collins' final book for its dive into Katniss' head.
Also on HuffPost: