The Hunger Games Mockingjay: How Will The Third Installment be Interpreted On-Screen?

WARNING: Major spoilers for The Hunger Games and Catching Fire ahead. I’ve attempted to be as cryptic as possible for Mockingjay, but some parts are still spoiler-esque.

Mockingjay Poster

There’s no questioning that expectations for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay are colossal. Catching Fire was 2013’s highest grossing film in the US, and Lions Gate Entertainment has reported record quarterly revenue thanks to the success of the first two films. Mockingjay is thought to do even better, especially as the internet essentially had an aneurysm of excitement at the poster release alone.

The death of Philip Seymour Hoffman has brought even more attention to the next two installments of The Hunger Games series as, despite not having finished filming, he has (sensibly) not been recast as Head Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee. He was said to have had one major scene remaining, and has apparently been digitally composed into it. Seeing one of the last performances of one of the truly great actors of our time would have been a draw alone for many people, but assessing how well this digitary replacement works will definitely be an extra source of intrigue.

Apart from some obvious omissions of plot points due to time constraints and keeping a low age rating (the book has some pretty hardcore violence considering it’s for teens), The Hunger Games films have – so far – stayed fairly true to the books. Mockingjay however marks a big step from where The Hunger Games and Catching Fire left off. The settings, the ensemble cast, and the now-familiar plot that has been repeated over two films very successfully is radically changed. Many of the scenes in the book will be difficult to translate to film and the tone as a whole will not make for easy viewing, so this adaptation will be markedly different from what we’ve seen from the previous films. However it is adapted, there are a few things for sure that we should expect.



Both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire provided us with the same set of backdrops: we had District 12, the train to the Capitol, the training area at the Capitol, and the arena of the Hunger Games itself (in that order). The films especially used these as anchors for the story, which allowed Hollywood to legitimately have its way of recycling the original plot into sequels (hello, Transformers). Mockingjay has quite literally obliterated any chance of bringing those familiar places back. Whilst the arena brings turmoil and terror, we kind of know things are going to be alright and, even if we don’t know how, things will end predictably as Katniss (and Peeta) will leave the arena and go home. When war breaks out in Mockingjay their home essentially becomes the arena and we witness radically different circumstances than we’ve ever seen before, so this tried-and-tested success story cannot be retold.

Mockingjay throws us into an uncomfortable world where we no longer feel familiar in the setting. With District 12 destroyed, Catching Fire ended with Katniss on her way to District 13, so what can we expect? Without giving too much away, District 13 is similar to District 12 in that it seems grey, dank, and poverty-stricken, but for a long while we won’t get the relief that we had of watching Katniss cut loose in the forest with Gale. For a large portion of the book everyone we meet is trapped underground, which will be difficult to make interesting and will definitely be less action-packed and vibrant as the previous films have been. District 13 has the potential to be overwhelmingly depressing on-screen, especially in contrast to the bright lights of the Capitol that we’ve had as aesthetic relief in the earlier films, so a bit of creative license with the story should really be implemented.

Character Development

Mockingjay is very different from both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire in that Katniss is no longer the driving force behind the plot. We see a lot more of the people we only really know through Katniss, and through the course of the book start appreciating them in their own right. Whilst the films have been less Katniss-centric than the books (a necessity considering the books are first-person), many of the characters in the film are deemed important because Katniss says so.

Primrose is the most potent example of this. We finally see the little kid that Katniss saved from the horror of the Hunger Games in action. Prim was always associated with Rue in the first installment. Rue’s youth and innocence was often highlighted, and so we as an audience are led to believe that Primrose is as delicate as her namesake. Mockingjay finally allows her to become her own person, and proves that Katniss is not the only one in the family with significant survival skill.


A huge difference between what we’ve seen in the previous films is the role of Peeta. When Katniss is saved by the rebels from the arena, Peeta is simultaneously captured by the Capitol. We are used to him acting as Katniss’ rock, preventing her from careening off into danger and madness, but for a large part of the book he is not present. This is something that films would probably benefit from changing. As the film allows us to see things that are not from Katniss’ perspective it will allow us to see what happens to Peeta in the Capitol, whereas in the books we are unable to have that insight.

Even when he returns, their situation is incredibly different to anything they’ve faced before. In the book this sent Katniss down a self-hating route that she always had the potential to slip into, but without Peeta’s consistent support and affection she fell and then some. How this will translate on-screen is difficult to judge. With the book we get the help of Katniss’ internal dialogue so her self-flagellation and outward hostility is given explanation. On-screen she could appear self-indulgent and lose some of the stoic hero status that has made her so popular. Whether her pain will get played down or made evident is difficult as, either way, it could completely change the strength that her character has had since the cry of “I volunteer as tribute!”

Katniss and Gale

One of the things that attracted most criticism, and probably the biggest difference between the books and the film so far, is the significant lack of Gale (and not just because Liam Hemsworth is a fitty). In both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, Gale is Katniss’ best friend and her sole confidant. Whilst we are told about their closeness in the films, their unspoken intimacy, and Katniss’ unwavering internal adoration of him, is lost.

In Mockingjay we see more of Gale than ever. Not only that, but he moves from best friend to, initially, a saviour. At the end of Catching Fire we are told that Gale led District 12 in escape from the bombings, and so saved Katniss’ family from certain death. Katniss and Gale’s interdependence as hunters and friends, and how this helped Katniss get through the Games, was seriously underplayed in the films (so far). Outside of his handsomeness, the films haven’t really given us a reason to love him, or much insight as to his and Katniss’ previous relationship. As the focus of Mockingjay moves closer into Gale from the beginning, hopefully his character on-screen can move from peripheral foil-to-Peeta to being a hero in his own right.

New Characters

Mockingjay introduces us to a significant amount of new characters, though only a small proportion of them are as vibrant as those we’ve had from the first two books. As war develops between the Districts and Capitol we meet generals, medics, and wounded left, right, and centre, few of which arguably carry the emotional weight of characters like Cinna, Haymitch, or even Effie.

Julianne MooreOne character that does hold attention though, if not emotional weight, is President Coin. President Coin represents the leader of the rebellion. As the head of District 13, she has essentially been leading the rebels since before Katniss could even be in the Hunger Games. The casting of Julianne Moore could be one of the best decisions possible, as Moore is sure to give Coin the delicate power and charisma that she had in the book. In Mockingjay moral absolutes become obsolete, so Moore will surely whip up a storm as the ambiguous leader of District 13.

As there is this wealth of new characters in Mockingjay, the apparent decision to create a new character for the film has been questioned. The internet has been rife with speculation about the casting of Robert Knepper as “Antonius”, a character not from the book. It is likely, if the perspective is taken from Katniss and includes Peeta’s plight too, that Antonius will be someone that Peeta encounters in the Capitol, but feel free to read more theories here.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay is going to be a very difficult book to bring to the screen, especially when keeping an age-rating in mind. Turning it into an all-out war action film probably wouldn’t appeal to the majority of the established audience, despite war being the central theme. The book is almost relentlessly both bleak and violent, so a good injection of light relief is a necessity to ensure its success. The first two books leant themselves quite well to being filmed, and had a cracking sense of satirical humour that prevented them from being too depressing. Mockingjay took a much more serious tone, so it will definitely be a challenge to make it as strong an all-rounder as the others. May the odds be ever in their favour.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Posted on by
Contributing writer for The Artifice.
Edited by Misagh.

Want to write about Film or other art forms?

Create writer account


  1. Ralph Vaughn

    Catching Fire movie was worlds improved over The Hunger Games movie. It turned out to be one of my favorite films this year.

  2. Ray Cortez

    I havent read the third book (seeing the movies first for a change), but from everything Ive heard from people I know, this book is not only the worst of the three, but has no need to be split into two movies from a story perspective. I’m worried about how the last two will turn out

    • Mockingjay was my favorite out of the three, so the whole thing about the third book being terrible is subjective. Mockingjay is definitely depressing, so if you’re turned off by depressing movies then you most likely won’t like Mockingjay.

  3. Lawrence

    I really don’t like the hunger games due to the fact that its about kids that kill each other which it’s trying to advocate against but people turned it into a worldwide phenomenon and lost the complete point about what the series was built on. And how does The Hunger Games get a PG-13 from the MPAA but Clerks gets an NC-17 when it was first submitted. Oh wait, because of language and the Hunger Games wasn’t R because there was no F words or blood 2 things that i’m guessing you would see if there was a real hunger games. I think I will stick with Battle Royale.

    • Mr Rice

      I saw Battle Royale on Netflix. I was not that good, and certainly not that well acted. From all the praise it was getting, I had higher expectations. Hunger Games was better.

      A lot better.

      And the only thing that was alike about them was that it was about kids being forced to fight one another. The two were in every other way very different.

    • Bookworm

      I think you may have missed some of the richness of the story. The Hunger Games is about more than just discouraging violence or a silly love triangle, there are larger themes about discerning morality without the law as a basis and about fighting for freedoms. I’d suggest checking the books out before you write off the movies. You’re right that plenty of fans of just the movies alone have turned the story into something a lot more simplistic than what the author intended, but that’s the case with a lot of movies. It’s not the first time and it certainly won’t be the last. So don’t let other people’s misinterpretations ruin the story for you.

    • Why use Clerks as an example? the movie came out so long ago. If it did come out in this day and age it would most definitely get PG-13. Alos I’m pretty sure nearly every one gets the point of the books and movies

    • The Hunger Games is not about kids killing each other. That could not be farther from the actual plot of the trilogy.

  4. whats this stupid trend now of making book to movie finales into a 2 parter… it breaks up the ambiance!!

    • Katharina Breaux

      You haven’t seen the third hunger games movie yet…. So I really don’t think you should be judging it yet. You may have read the books, much like myself, and it does have a big story to tell in that one, I can think of a lot of things that will be much needed for two parts. I am not saying its a necessity to have two parts but I can’t see many cons as to why it shouldn’t happen either.
      Look at The Hobbit, a lot of people were baffled when that was said to be a 3 parter but it has turned out fantastic.

    • Barrios

      What trend? This has only happened two times that we should care about (Harry Potter and Mocking Jay) and one that no one should care about. This is not a trend, this is just a way of making sure that you get a payoff for everything you did in the other movies. If this was a “money machine” then every book adaptation would be two parts or maybe more and no one would bat an eye.

  5. Bookworm

    I love your insight on this. I’m very curious to see how they choose to handle Peeta’s absence and hopeful that we will be given a glimpse at his perspective while he is in the Capitol.
    What is your opinion on the decision to split the final installment into two parts? I’m still not entirely convinced of the necessity, it sort of just feels like the writers and director put their heads together and said “Harry Potter and Twilight did it, so we’ve gotta do it too!”

  6. Catching Fire was the best book, and probably will be the best movie too, but Mockingjay has alot of content and potential. It’s not just another Hunger Games, and the war could be depicted well. They will have to take some creative licence tho.

  7. Jonathan Matos

    I’m not sure how they’re going to work around Peeta not being captured, and I agree that Gale hasn’t been well characterized. Hopefully they have a good reason for keeping Peeta and they can get us to feel something more about Gale in the next two movies.

  8. These hunger games movies are annoying don’t understand the hype.

    • Have you read the books? The idea is really interesting and we aren’t that far off, if you consider the games are like sports where kids and adults alike are getting injured and dying. The idea of a government forcing people to fight to the death as a remembrance of an uprising is an interesting idea that isn’t too far from the gladiator games of thousands of years ago or the reality tv shows that get close to it.

  9. Excited, but that does not mean I’m happy with the two-part split.

    • Stapleton

      That’s the apologetic’s favorite defense, but the fact that is that if all three Lord of the Rings books can be made into one outstanding movie each, there’s no excuse for studios to split book adaptations up.

      Deathly Hallows Part I and II could have been one super-long movie… 3 hours if it were truncated a little bit. Would have been a fitting conclusion.

      Breaking Dawn Part I and II reeked of being unnecessarily split into two movies (I still love them, though).

      The Hobbit being split into THREE movies is the worst example I’ve seen lately. So many fans of the book claimed it’s because the book is so dense, but when more than half of Smaug is filler nonsense that goes absolutely nowhere, there’s something sinister afoot at the studio. The Hobbit should have been one movie, maybe two. Not three.

      And now Mockingjay, I’m sure, will continue this trend. More movies for the fans, but also more ammo to lob at studios for their financial decisions. I wouldn’t be surprised if Allegiant gets split into two films, as well.

    • Karen Daniel

      It’s a very long book, it is good that it is two parts so they do not miss any important content.

  10. palumbo

    The first two hooks were good but the last one sucked! Lets see what they do here, could we actually get a movie better than the book? Not impossible at all. Great writeup btw.

  11. never read the books but its damn good movie franchise.

  12. PerkAlert

    First of all, nicely done. I feel like you were able to present a good analysis of the third movie, while avoiding a large chunk of the spoilers. I agree with most of your points–this movie will be a tremendous challenge to pull off, especially since they’ve set the bar pretty high with the first two movies. But, since they DID do so well with the first two movies, I think their interpretation of the third book will probably be something to look forward to, rather than shy away from. You make an excellent point that we will be able to see Peeta’s perspective in the movie, which I think will make that particular *ahem* character development much more potent than it was in the book. I look forward to seeing how it turns out 🙂

  13. Liz Kellam

    I really hope that don’t change anything about the ending; I know a lot of people didn’t like it, but I thought it was one of the most realistic endings I’ve ever read for this type of fiction. Not quite “happily ever after”.

  14. Catching Fire was my favorite book from the series and I thought the movie did a fantastic job. Can’t wait for this one.

  15. Interesting speculations. I’m really excited to see what they bring to the screen for Mockingjay.

  16. Originally I was disappointed to hear they were splitting the book into two movies, but after reading your story I feel like with the time of two movies they could really convey all of the character development and plot changes in more detail.

    Are they really digitally adding in Hoffman? I feel like that’s weird!

    Great article!

  17. Peeta probably should have just looked out for himself; life would have been easier.

Leave a Reply