‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1’: 16 Biggest Differences Between the Book and the Movie
The penultimate entry into the sprawling and blood-stained ‘Hunger Games’ franchise takes a decidedly hip and totally en vogue approach to its final two movies—splitting one (relatively slim) novel into two feature films, all the better to dive deeper into the burning revolution headed up by a reluctant Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), further explore the various districts that make up Panem, and make piles of cash in the process. ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part I’ might be half a story (and our review says as much), but it’s pretty remarkable that screenwriters Danny Strong and Peter Craig were able to squeeze out an entire 123-minute feature film from 187 pages of a single novel (yes, we counted).
With that adaptation from page to screen comes a few changes—including some major ones—that effectively beef up the material and push it forward towards the final chapter of a story that has suddenly become less about televised child crime and more a guidebook for how to overthrow a government. You know, the stuff that teens like! So what changed on the long road from third novel in a series to third movie in a franchise? Here are the biggest differences:
SPOILER ALERT: MAJOR SPOILERS FOR BOTH ‘MOCKINGJAY’ THE BOOK AND ‘MOCKINGJAY’ THE FILM TO FOLLOW.
1. The movie opens in District 13.
Suzanne Collins’ ‘Mockingjay’ opens with Katniss visiting District 12—her recently destroyed home—and struggling to reconcile what she sees before her. It’s a powerful moment, and it makes Katniss seem both present and forceful, certainly more present and forceful than she is in the opening of the film, which sees her shaking in an air duct in District 13, still damaged from previous events. Sure, that air duct-shaking happens in the book, but Francis Lawrence’s film’s choice to lead off with it presents the audience with a much weaker Katniss.
2. We learn Gale’s side of the story on live television.
In the novel, Gale’s version of what happened during the fire-bombing of District 12 is a tossed-off piece of exposition delivered by Katniss. In the film, Gale (Liam Hemsworth) himself explains it, during yet another visit to District 12 (this one filmed by Katniss’ new camera crew). It’s much more powerful, and it delivers important exposition with necessary flair.
3. Beetee gets a lot more screentime.
Beetee, the technologically-inclined former Hunger Games victor, is alive and well in District 13 in Collins’ book, but we rarely see him around. In the film, Jeffrey Wright’s character pops up with regularity, a soothing and familiar presence in a foreign world.
4. There are no tattooed-on daily schedules.
Although life in District 13 is certainly highly regulated, the film does away with the daily tattoos that serve as a reminder of everyone’s individual schedule in the book.
5. Boggs is a nice guy, sort of.
In Collins’ novel, Gale is often on the wrong end of Boggs’ fist and gun, as the hardcore District 13 commander routinely doles out smacks and hits that leave even tough guy Gale bloody and upset. In the film, he’s played by Mahershala Ali, and while the actor doesn’t try to make him warm and fuzzy, he’s certainly not smacking anyone for fun.
6. Katniss’ decision to be the Mockingay is all but demanded by President Coin.
Book-Katniss has far fewer interactions with President Coin (Julianne Moore), the leader of the rebellion, and while she eventually comes around to serving as the revolution’s all-important Mockingjay, it’s not necessarily a choice foisted on her by Coin. In the film, Coin’s lack of confidence and general iciness push Katniss to take up the mantle (and, you know, help save the world and stuff).
7. Katniss’ demands are a little different.
In the novel, Katniss’ list of demands to be the Mockingjay leads off with her smallest request: that her family can keep their cat. She ratchets things up to include rescuing the victor hostages and allowing her to kill President Snow, but she starts tiny. In the film, it’s reverse: Katniss goes big, with her request to save Buttercup thrown in last. Also of note? In the book, Katniss initially demands that the rebellion save Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Johanna, and Enobaria, with Annie (Finnick Odair’s lover) as a late addition. In the movie, Enobaria has been cut out entirely, and Katniss goes gunning for Peeta, Johanna, and Annie right off the bat.
8. Effie is still alive (but the prep team is not).
Collins’ book allowed a few of Katniss’ Capitol friends to live—namely, her “prep team” of Venia, Flavius, and Octavius—but they’re totally MIA from the feature. Instead, fan favorite Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) is still alive (heavens!) and she’s the one who gets Katniss ready for battle. Is this the biggest deviation from the novel? Yes. Is it the best? Also yes.
9. Katniss’ new bow isn’t nearly as technologically advanced.
Katniss’ shiny new bow and arrow are created by Beetee in both the book and the film, but the book subplot of her having a bow that only responds to her voice has been chopped. What, the budget didn’t have room for it?
10. There’s no nightlock.
The rebels think of everything, and in the book, that includes assisted suicide. Worried that their fighters—including Katniss—will be captured and tortured, they cook up a special little poison pill (“nightlock”) for all warriors to carry into battle should the worst thing happen. It’s not even an option in the movie.
11. No one treats Katniss like a soldier.
Katniss is referred to as "Soldier Katniss Everdeen" during the early part of Collins’ book, and she even undergoes eventual training to bring her up to snuff, but the movie actually mocks her non-soldier status. It’s a minor thing right now, but it’s definitely going to have an impact on the second film, which heavily relies on Katniss-as-soldier to drive it on.
12. Finnick and Katniss don’t have an intimate chat in the woods.
The former victors interact sparingly throughout the film, a choice that includes chopping a short conversation from the book, when the duo go aboveground to talk about the latest word from Peeta. The effect is a weird one: Finnick is definitely there, but he feels less involved with Katniss and her emotions.
13. Oh, about Peeta’s leg.
Peeta lost a leg during his first go-round in the Hunger Games, a plot point that has been totally excised from the movies. By the third film, it’s more jarring than ever that the Boy With the Bread has all his limbs, especially as the novel makes such a big point of it—particularly during his televised missives to Katniss, when the camera lingers over his prosthetic. No such imagery in the film.
14. Katniss isn’t part of the channel-jamming propo that unspools during the rescue mission.
Instead of chattering right alongside Finnick as they jam the airwaves with propo action during a rescue mission to get Peeta, Annie, and Johanna, in the film, Katniss refuses to step up. Finnick fills in, and his stories about life in the Capitol unspool as the mission plays out.
15. We actually see the mission.
In Collins’ book, the rescue mission is only briefly talked about—it’s planned, launched, and executed in a minimum of pages, and we never learn the details—but the film goes deep, showing it in full detail alongside Finnick’s propo. The result? Upped ante and actual tension.
16. Katniss doesn’t get to visit Peeta.
Peeta is indeed rescued in both the book and the movie, and yes, in both incarnations, he comes back totally bonkers, intent on killing Katniss, and loopy as all get-out. The film ends with a shocked and heartbroken Katniss observing a tied-down and totally wild Peeta screaming his head off in a hospital room. In the book, Peeta isn’t just left to yell it out, his rehabilitation kicks off with a visit from sweet District 12 pal Delly. It’s no wonder that Delly can’t help heal Peeta in the books, simply because her character has been cut. Yet even this change doesn’t afford Katniss a solitary glimpse at Peeta, and she can only see him she accompanied by lots of other observers.