I saw Mockingjay: Part One over Thanksgiving weekend, and I confess I went into the movie theater with certain expectations.
This film covers the first half of the final book in The Hunger Games trilogy – and it’s safe to say that because the books get more intense, more gut-wrenching, I expected that this movie would also be darker in tone. In some ways, this film was almost less violent than the two that preceded it – partly because the characters aren’t pitted each other inside the arena anymore – but it definitely didn’t spare in terms of the emotional anguish.
I have always felt that films can never quite measure up to the original source material from which they are adapted. Much of the emotions conveyed through the written word are often lost in the version which eventually appears on the screen. We spend all three books inside Katniss Everdeen’s head, getting to know her through her innermost thoughts. In the movies, that connection is lost. The audience is reduced to an outside viewer, a third party. We have to rely on what we are shown rather than what we are told, what we experience through Katniss’s eyes.
It’s why Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal of Katniss in the movies makes such an impact. She emotes so effectively that it’s easy for us to decipher Katniss’s true feelings, even if she doesn’t always understand them herself. Even Gale points it out to her in one scene, where he confronts her about her love for Peeta – but then admits that she may not know exactly which kind of love that is. Fans across the Internet, of the books and films alike, are pitted against one another in their preference for who Katniss should end up with – dubbing themselves either Team Peeta or Team Gale.
But my question is – why does Katniss have to choose? The film doesn’t weigh too heavily on the love triangle aspect, with Katniss as more of a reluctant heroine rather than a swooning girl. While a large part of the plot is dedicated to her almost-consuming need to rescue Peeta from the Capitol’s clutches, she seems primarily driven by concern for his well-being rather than any romantic interest. His attempt to kill her after the Capitol brainwashes him is a betrayal that would hurt just as much coming from a friend than a lover.
On the other hand, that doesn’t mean that Gale is any more likely to come in and steal her away. When Katniss kisses him with the intent to comfort, he accuses her of only doing so because he’s in pain. I was a little turned-off by the implication, not to mention the passive-aggressive tone with which it was delivered. Katniss might not be able to completely articulate her feelings for Gale, either, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have them.
There’s no question that Katniss cares for both boys, but the idea that she should have to pick one or the other in the midst of everything else going on in her life is ridiculous – and the movie does a better job of illustrating that than I ever could have hoped for.
However, the most admirable quality about Katniss, and the thing worth focusing on the most, is her strength. She’s never once depended on anyone to protect her, never needed to rely on anyone. She takes care of her sister and mother at all costs. She’s not entirely willing to be the face of a revolution, but she’ll give it her best shot if it means standing up to a corrupt government. She’s not perfect, and certainly makes more than her fair share of mistakes – but that’s also what makes her human, and relatable, and real.
So forget about Team Peeta or Team Gale – we should all be Team Katniss, the girl on fire. I know I am.