By dividing the final book in Collins’ trilogy into two parts, Mockingjay—Part 1 took on the burden of finding a satisfying arc in half a story. (A story that, frankly, isn’t especially cohesive to begin with.) Screenwriters Craig and Strong approached this problem by constructing the main action around Peeta’s capture, imprisonment, and rescue. Watching the film, I was often annoyed by the way Katniss and the story insist on returning again and again to the Peeta issue—people are dying, Katniss, focus up!—but in hindsight, it’s a good solution to the problem of creating tension and catharsis within a story fragment, while also providing a compelling setup for the final film. The reveal that Peeta has literally been turned into a weapon by the Capitol, via venom-assisted fear conditioning, is taken straight from the book, but the movie plays it coy up until the last minute as to just how affected Peeta was by his time as a hostage. The answer: lost-his-mind affected. The Hunger Games film series has established a predilection for ominous final shots, and Mockingjay’s is a doozy, with Peeta screaming and writhing in a hospital bed, and Katniss’ face, slack and helpless, reflected on top. They’re both linked and damaged by fate, in a way that changed the world—possibly for the worse.
And then, after all that, a black screen with the words: “In loving memory of Philip Seymour Hoffman.” Talk about a gut-punch.