How many times have you heard someone say "well, it wasn't as good as the book," after you've immediately finished watching a movie? How many times have you said it yourself? Exactly. It's probably the most common complaint about movie adaptations of books, no matter how good or how bad the original source material is. That's because people have a nostalgia towards it. They're fans, and there was no way that the movie was ever going to compare to their favourite book. Even if it was an improvement, I doubt book fans would admit that. They might not say "it wasn't as good as the book," but they'll never say "I think I preferred the movie more." That's because books and movies are two very different things, and so, when they try to tell the same story, things change. There's never once been a movie adaptation that's 100% word for word loyal to the book, but that's a good thing. Or at least I think so.
Another common complaint you hear about movie adaptations is "that was so different to the book," or "so and so was different to how I pictured them," or "they left out my favourite part." Well, that's just unavoidable. Movie adaptations don't have the freedom of the book, and the version of the book that plays out in your head is going to be drastically different to the one put on screen. It just will be. But personally, I think changing things up is a good thing. I don't believe that films have to say loyal to the books all the time, and Mockingjay Part 2 proved that. If you haven't read my review for that movie, you can check it out here. In the review, I promised a spoiler discussion. Well, here it is. This right here will be my Mockingjay Part 2 spoiler discussion, as well as a rant on films staying too loyal to the books.
It's no secret that I'm not a fan of the Mockingjay book. I think I've brought it up in just about every single conversation I've ever had about the Hunger Games. It's just not a good book. It really isn't. It's a rushed, poorly paced, uninteresting and lazy installment in what is an otherwise great trilogy. The writing in this franchise was never THAT amazing, but in Mockingjay, it really took a step down. That's why the Mockingjay movies really surprised me. They were exciting, investing and brutal. They were entertaining. Flawed, but entertaining, although many of these flaws were inherited from the books. I talked about most of the problems in my spoiler-free review, but now it's time to talk spoilers. So, if you haven't seen Mockingjay Part 2 yet and wish to watch it unspoilt, maybe just stop reading this article now.
There's really only three sequences I wish to discuss that contain spoilers. The first is Prim's death. Prim gets about 4 minutes of screen time throughout Mockingjay and 3 and a half minutes of that is during the first twenty minutes of the film. Then, all of a sudden, we see her charge in to rescue bombed children at the end of the film and BOOM! She's dead. That's it. It's not mentioned again until one of the final scenes in the movie. The death felt forced. There was no emotional build up, and hence, I didn't really feel sad when Prim died. It was just another death that happened. Kind of like Finnick's death. Granted, that sequence was my favourite moment in the entire film, but again, there was no emotional impact.
The second spoiler-filled moment from Mockingjay Part 2 that I wish to discuss isn't necessary a moment, but is instead the treatment of a character. Gale. Thor's brother just doesn't get treated that well in this installment, and here's a tweet that sums it up perfectly:
Gale doesn't have an awful lot to do in this movie besides whine, and then, once Prim has died, all of a sudden he's blamed for the bombings. Why? I don't know. So what does Katniss do with her lifelong friend? She tells him to leave.... and then she never sees him again. Ever. Like, come on. He wasn't the one that bombed Prim. He didn't want Coin to rise to power. He didn't want to betray Katniss. Yet Katniss tells him to go away anyway. Sure, she's upset, but is she so upset that she never wants to see him again? The same thing happens in the book and just like with the movie, it's dumb. Peeta straight up tried to kill Katniss and everything she loves, but hey, look at them. They got married.
And that brings me to my third spolierific problem. The epilogue. It's pointless as fuck. We get it. Katniss and Peeta fell in love, but did we really need to see them hanging out with their kids, explaining the events of the hunger games? Not at all. What would've been a perfect ending, however, was the final scene before the epilogue. Katniss sneaks into Peeta's room, snuggles up to him and he asks her "you love me. Real or not real?" To which Katniss responds "real," and we cut to black. That tells us just as much about their relationship as the epilogue did. The epilogue just hits us over the head with the fact that they're in love and it was only in the film to please the book fans. It took away from the impact of the ending.
So why are these problems with Mockingjay's ending relevant to the article you're reading? They're all loyal to the mediocre book. Nothing is changed in order to make a better movie. The filmmakers behind Mockingjay Part 2 felt as though they had to stay true to the book plot point for plot point, and like I mentioned in my spoiler free review, they never even do anything with Peeta's bursts of anger. Nothing comes of it. Just think about how much better of a movie Mockingjay Part 2 could've been if they had deviated from the books, exploring certain aspects of the movie that weren't in the books. Adaptations of books aren't made just to please book fans. They're made to create quality cinema and Mockingjay Part 2, while enjoyable, could've been so much better without the restraints of the book.
Let's look at other examples of book to movie adaptations, in case I haven't proved my point already. Say what you will about the Hobbit trilogy, but I loved it. Just like Lord of the Rings, it was an epic tale and by the time it had finished, I honestly felt as if I had gone on an adventure. The thing is, the Hobbit book is not very long. It could easily have been one movie, but it wasn't. It was three. They deviated from the book, exploring plot points that they thought would make for a better movie, all while remaining loyal to the source material. They don't do anything disrespectful to J.R.R. Tolkien's classic novel, but instead, they build upon it, making it their own thing.
Another example is Stanley Kubrick's horror masterpiece, The Shining, based on the book of the same title by Stephen King. The Shining is my all time favourite book and I'll be honest, a completely faithful adaptation wouldn't work. The film would be well over three hours and quite difficult to adapt, but I'd watch it. I'd be more than happy to watch it. Stanley Kubrick took the ideas, the characters, the locations and the basic plot of The Shining and transformed it into the greatest horror film of all time. He made it his own thing, deviating from the book and creating a cohesive and terrifying story that still has audiences transfixed to this day. The same can be said for every comic book movie ever made, minus the terrifying part, obviously.
That being said, you can deviate all you want, but you still need to make a good movie. If you take the ideas and characters of a book and put them in a film that's garbage, nobody's going to be happy. Recent examples of this are the Maze Runner and Divergent franchises. I haven't read either of those books, but from what I hear, they're nothing like the films. I have friends who are really invested in those books and try to convince me that if I read the book, I'll understand (and hopefully enjoy) the movies. Well, no. That shouldn't be the case. I should be able to watch and understand the movie without reading the book. These two franchises are examples of books failing to translate to film. Deviating from the books isn't all fun and games, but when it works, it works.
So there you have it. That's my reasoning behind why I don't think movies need to stay loyal to the books, and it was really Mockingjay Part 2 that sparked this article. When a filmmaker goes to make a movie, the most important thing should not be staying loyal to the book. It should be to make a good movie, and sometimes that means deviating from the beloved source material. Sorry, folks, but such is life. And I love it. Plus, it allows me to enjoy two different versions of the same story, so now there's even more entertainment available for everyone to enjoy.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 Is In Theatres Now And My Review Can Be Found Here