So here's my obligatory list of what I wish they hadn't left out:
• I didn't expect to love the actor playing Finnick, and I didn't. It could have been a lot worse though.
• I'll grant it made some sense to make Mags mute, but I missed her lines. She had good lines.
• Katniss trying to pump her team for information about unrest in the districts.
• Actually, not a lot. The movie was rather overlong as it was.
And here's my less obligatory list of what I'm glad they did change:
• That very subtle moment when Snow takes a sip from his wineglass and it fills with blood. It was a sophisticated way of hinting at his ailment visually instead of making Katniss tell someone his breath smelled like blood, plus it just looked creepy as hell.
• Prim's role gave a real sense of the kind of person she becomes in Mockingjay, intelligent and compassionate.
• The girls' relationship with their mother really worked on that level, too.
• I know I was jazzed about the morphlings in the book but honestly I don't know what else they did that would have added to the movie.
• Effie's "something gold for all of us!" - actually, was that in the book too? I can't remember!
• Did anyone notice, in the books, that Katniss's symbolic title never graduates from "girl who was on fire" to the much more streamlined "girl on fire"? That always bugged me.
And my list of things that stayed the same in a yay manner:
• The wedding dress burn-away into the Mockingjay costume reveal was spectacular, just a gorgeous scene to see unfolding in live action.
• Beetee, Wiress, and Johanna were all cast wonderfully and great to watch.
• Haymitch and Peeta leaving Katniss (and the viewer) out of the plan.
• Not one complaint about that lethal but damned cool arena.
• Peeta and Katniss both giving the panel their own personal style of FU, with the painting of Rue and the Crane hangman.
• Final revelations delivered very smoothly.
• Cinna's death. Ouch.
I wasn't sure when I started this entry what to say about the movie as a whole, which is why I copied the format I used for my review of the first movie (literally cut and pasted the list headers into this entry; it's like I can't think of a single thing to type anymore unless I already have words in the box to prompt me). But as I was filling in my lists, I realized that what I truly appreciate about the adaptations of these books is that they respect the intentions of the source material.
See, the other movie I've seen in the theaters lately was The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug. And I'd seen the first one and I knew before I went into it that it was going to be a trilogy. And I knew that the extra length came from bits and pieces of Tolkien's writing jammed between the scenes based on the book. And most importantly, I knew that whatever I saw, I should just enjoy the ride and not let the changes bother me. So I tried, believe me. I put on my "ooh a dragon" goggles and reminded myself that stupid movies can be fun movies. It didn't work.
The reason it didn't work is because I hold JRR Tolkien in such high regard that it offends me to hear his writing insulted. He knew what he was doing. If he'd wanted The Hobbit to instruct the reader about the history of Middle-Earth, that's how he would have written it. If he'd thought that the book was lacking a female elven warrior and a love story, he would have included them. The meeting between Thorin and Gandalf at The Prancing Pony didn't occur in the book, not because it didn't happen, but because it was completely unnecessary to the plot. We have dwarves with sex appeal - to humans! to elves! - and Bilbo being the only one with the tenacity to complete the quest. None of those changes were for the sake of adjusting a written story into a visual one. They were a series of attempts to fix the story, and don't even try to tell me that's not an insult to the writer.
The producers of The Hunger Games movies have the advantage of an easier job, of course. They're based on a modern book series, which isn't crippled by an absence of female characters or anything else that bothers the audience of today. The youth and beauty of the cast doesn't contradict the physical descriptions in the books, so they don't need to be glammed up for the screen. The plot is already intense and dramatic instead of lighthearted, so anyone waiting for a life-and-death showdown won't get bored. But that doesn't mean there aren't any risks. Catching Fire, the movie, could have easily turned Katniss from a hunted survivalist to a leader who makes all of the major decisions herself - that's the safe variety of adventure story, a hero coming into her own and blasting through the remaining arc as nothing more than a final battle. Instead, she's manipulated by her own people and thrown back to where she started, except worse. That's the better story.
So thank you, everyone who brought us The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Thank you for letting this be a movie we can think about, talk about, and squee about. It's hard work, but it's not impossible, and I'm glad someone takes care to show that once in a while.
Why the hell did Smaug have two legs?