Big-screen adaptations of books always involve changes and modifications to the original story. It’s not a new phenomenon—but it’s one we still love to pick apart when given the opportunity.
But when it comes to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1, there isn’t much picking to be done. (Spoilers for Mockingjay—Part 1 follow.)
The major changes from book to screen are few and far between, perhaps mostly because the third Hunger Games book is being split into two films—which gave screenwriter Danny Strong more time to fit in more stuff from the novel. Sure, we could talk about how Prim didn’t utter the line “Whatever it takes to break you,” or how the movie didn’t mention Katniss’ new bow having voice-recognition technology, but most of those changes are tiny details omitted for time that don’t have much bearing on the actual story.
As for the big stuff—well, that we can talk about. Namely:
1. Katniss dreams of Peeta
Okay, so this isn’t a big change so much as a bigish modification, but still, Katniss dreaming of Peeta arriving and holding her at night—much like he did on their Victor’s Tour—wasn’t in the book. Yet it was a great physical representation of all of the feelings Katniss has (and goes on and on about, via her inner monologue) in the book. In other words, this was a smart move.
2. More President Coin
Going into the film, we’d been told that President Coin would have a greater presence than she did in the book—and that proved to be true. Not only did the film end with her epic speech about rescuing all of Panem—juxtaposed against a horrified Katniss watching a ruined Peeta—but the film also worked in a bit of background for her character. When she first announces that Katniss will be the Mockingjay, Prim tells us why there are so few children in District 13: an epidemic took most of them out, along with all of Coin’s family.
3. President Snow’s prep team and the other districts’ rebellion
Katniss’s first-person perspective in the books means that it’s always safe to expect more of both Snow and the other districts in the Hunger Games films. It’s not a change so much as a point-of-view adjustment—but nevertheless, the movie created a few new characters, namely Snow’s prep team of sorts. In the film, we meet his speech writer, along with another man who helps him make decisions. As for the other districts—well, who knew lumberjacks could be such badasses?
4. Effie in District 13
Probably the biggest difference from book to screen is the presence of Elizabeth Banks as Effie. In the book, her character isn’t in District 13 after the Quarter Quell. But after Banks’ portrayal made Effie a fan favorite in the films, it’s not difficult to understand the film’s desire to change that. After all, nobody’s going to complain about seeing Effie in a jumpsuit.
5. No Venia, Octavia, or Flavius
Effie’s presence in the film fills the same role Cinna’s prep team filled in Mockingjay. In the book, Katniss finds out that Venia, Octavia, and Flavius have been imprisoned in 13 after stealing food, and she frees them. They then help her find her Mockingjay look, which of course becomes Effie’s job in the film.
6. Peeta’s rescue
Because the book is from Katniss’s perspective, we don’t get any of the details of Peeta’s rescue. But the film opens it up: We follow Boggs’s team as they enter the Tribute Center and find all of the equipment that was used to torture (and hijack) Peeta and others. Another tweak to the scene: Instead of Katniss starting the distraction broadcast with the story of how she met Peeta, in the film, Finnick speaks first. It’s only after the Capitol seems to be waking up that Katniss steps in. But she doesn’t talk about Peeta. Instead, she talks directly to President Snow—who, in a twist, knows about the rescue mission in the Tribute Center.
When Film Katniss realizes this, the film physically shows her mental breakdown about potentially losing both Katniss and Gale. So yes, this moment is changed, but only to further the story—and again, find a way to present Katniss’s feelings on screen.
7. “I Kill Snow”
This isn’t a huge deal, but Katniss’s list of demands for becoming the Mockingjay is very short in the film: She wants the other victors to be saved and pardoned, and she wants Prim to keep her cat. Oh, she also remembers Annie, whom she adds at the last minute in the book. So what demands were eliminated? Well, despite not showing Katniss ask for it, the film does work in Katniss hunting with Gale—so we can’t complain about that. But the biggest change is the elimination of Katniss’s final demand: “I kill Snow.” Then again, maybe the films are saving that moment for Part 2.
Final note: Whatever happened to those promos of Snow with Joanna and Peeta at his side? They were the first teasers for the film, and it would’ve been nice to see them in the final product.