A curious advantage of the adapted film is that it is able to strip down the book to its base elements. The bagginess of novels are streamlined. Unnecessary details are excised. Redundancies eliminated. The Harry Potter movies are case in point. They far excel the books by brute economy. Where the books are prolonged, repetitious, prolix, adverbial, and redundant, the movies are (generally) swift of foot, concise, direct; the mechanics of the narrative smooth and efficient. The movies become the best editor that J.K. Rowling never had. Even the final installment of Deathly Hallows, though split into two parts, maintains some grip on narrative celerity.
Not so for Hunger Games: Mockingjay: part 1. The movie is a series of prolonged redundancies. There are numerous shots of a futuristic plane seen taking off and landing. Whole scenes of exposition are repeated. There are many minutes of pointless stair well climbing in a bunker and multiple superfluous shots of drab bunker lifestyle. It should have been called Hunger Games: More Bunker Time.
And for what? It is clear, even without watching the final part, that had there only been one movie adapted from the book it would have been a better movie; the filmmakers would not have needed to resort to needless filler and the limits posed by feature length would have stripped the story of Suzanne Collins’ ill-conceived indulgences. But profit is the game: if you can make twice as much money by making two movies where one would suffice why wouldn’t you? And so too why wouldn’t you, the viewer, rebel and deny such blatant money-grabbing at the expense of story?
Do not even speak to me of the damnable Hobbit movies.
It is absurd of course to imagine a cinema free of avarice: movies and high profit are synonymous. But couldn’t they be a little more covert about it? The first two Hunger Games were, for the most part, tightly wound machines, fun, rather strange and perfectly watchable, buoyed aloft by the resilient Jennifer Lawrence. Mockingjay: Part 1 on the contrary lives up to its title, mocking you about taking your money in return for such paltry gruel. This is where the mask of the entertainment industry is lifted and we see at last the smug skull of a daimonic intelligence, amused by our innate gullibility, by our insufferable need to be entertained, by our systemic American boredom.
As Thoreau has it, you can’t kill time without hurting eternity.
Enchantment is the thing. Jennifer Lawrence is once again astounding. Very few actresses possess such replete magnetism, such imperial eminence, such bewitching charisma. And so we are bewitched. Hers is a Katherine-Hepburn-level of cinematic aura. Jennifer Lawrence is the semiotic angel shedding contrails of light over the insipid ruins of this movie. She is the hapless siren summoning your ship to crash on the rocks. The enchantment is such that while you know you’re being conned, your time thrown out like so much bathwater, while knowing that the film is fundamentally meaningless, you cannot turn away.