I guess we have Harry Potter to blame.
It was, after all, the final Harry Potter novel that was first hewn into two separate films. Admittedly, the book was the size (and weight) of a cement block, and making a one-film version would have been appallingly difficult (or ridiculously long). But somehow this has become standard for all these teen series, even though most of their final volumes are rather less monumental.
Certainly, Mockingjay suffers because of the decision to draw it out into two films: it seems that most of part 2 consists of people sitting around waiting for something to happen. And yet, one of the most important events in the story – the death of a major character – takes place so quickly and in such confusion that it gets lost.
The Hunger Games was probably the best entry in the recent string of Young Adult dystopia-of-the-month club novels turned into films, most of which depend on some absurd, impractical and essentially impossible division of society (yes, I’m talking about you, Divergent. Although I will concede that the talk of a massive eugenics experiment in Insurgent moves it up most of the way to “hard to believe”). Here, at least, the idea of demanding tribute from subject people has a strong set of real world parallels.
And the movies themselves have been solid and well-made, even if I still think that they should have edited Mockingjay back into one movie.
It is interesting to note, despite all the people who saw the original film as exalting socialist revolution, that the ultimate tenor of the series is far from revolutionary. As in Orwell, getting rid of the farmer puts the pigs in charge – even if the devious Senator Plutarch does put everything back into balance in the end (sadly, Philip Seymour Hoffman gets far too little screen time in his final role. He will be sorely missed. One suspects that the letter Katniss receives in the end replaced some of his missing scenes)
It is also interesting to note that, despite those portraying Katniss as a feminist icon, she stands out as a far more traditional figure:
In many respects, she is a young adult Cincinnatus (the Roman General who saved the City from invasion then returned home to the farm once he’d finished the job), but more than that she exemplifies a set of values which Aristotle would have approved: her first concern is for the good of her family, then for her friends and neighbors, then her community – and then, finally, and far less important, the good of her country. She is willing to sacrifice herself, not for some vague revolutionary slogans but for the people around her.
And, at the end of the film, she finds happiness in returning home to her simple life, to love and motherhood, free from politics and power.
One does have to wonder, however, as obvious as this was throughout the entire story why President Snow didn’t just send Katniss and Peeta home to live in married bliss with occasional news reports instead of insisting that she support the regime in public. You think a clever and devious man like that would have figured that one out.
Oh, wait. If he did, then there wouldn’t have been any more sequels.