It’s the hottest thing in Hollywood, you guys: Splitting the final volume of a massively popular YA novel series into two feature films, thereby doubling the size of the studio’s
Scrooge McDuck money pit box office receipts. Today, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay officially joined the club: Lionsgate announced Suzanne Collins’ final book in her bestselling series would be two films to be released on successive Thanksgivings in 2014 and 2015. (Other members of said club include Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows parts 1 and 2, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn parts 1 and 2, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again, with the final two Matrix films and the middle two Pirates of the Caribbean films forming a sister club next door.)
But pulling off this kind of final book spliteroo is not simple surgery. Adventure-based novels (at least those not written by Dan Brown) don’t tend to have major climactic cliffhangers dangling conveniently in the middle of the plot. So wherever the folks who end up adapting Mockingjay — a dark, messy, troublesome tome — decide to split the book, they’ve got their work cut out for them.
For one thing, Collins herself divided Mockingjay into three parts — and let us pause here to admire the relative restraint on the part of Lionsgate for not making Mockingjay into a trilogy — so coming up with a satisfying mid-point to end Mockingjay Part 1 risks either feeling like it’s too early or too late. But that’s not going to stop us from making a few suggestions of our own. (Naturally, MAJOR SPOILERS follow, so if you haven’t read Mockingjay already, continue on at your own risk.)
(Seriously, DO NOT READ IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED.)
SPLIT POINT #1: District 13 is attacked
Catching Fire ends with Peeta falling into the clutches of the Capitol as Katniss, Gale, and Haymitch hole up in the underground, mysterious District 13, and Katniss begrudgingly lets the rebellion transform her into the symbol of their struggle: the Mockingjay. During a propaganda broadcast by the Capitol, Peeta manages to warn District 13 that an attack is eminent, giving everyone enough time to prepare.
The climax: In the book, District 13 is basically a giant bunker, but Mockingjay Part 1 could fudge things and allow for a Helm’s Deep-like battle in which District 13 emerges the victor.
The cliffhanger: Afterwards, Katniss realizes that whatever she does as the Mockingjay to rally support will only be taken out on Peeta by the Capitol. She has a nervous breakdown, and is sedated. When she comes to, Haymitch tells her a rescue mission has been launched to save Peeta. Its leader: Gale. OMG! She could lose them both!
SPLIT POINT #2: Peeta is rescued
With Katniss nervously waiting back in District 13, Gale leads a small force inside the Capitol to rescue Peeta, and a few other prisoners.
The climax: Collins lets Gale’s rescue mission to save Peeta unfold offscreen, as it were, but Mockingjay Part 1 could depict the rescue with a major action sequence — possibly involving Katniss herself, though some fans would find that sacrilege.
The cliffhanger: Peeta is saved, and Katniss races to his hospital bed for their long awaited reunion. As Katniss puts it in the book, “My lips are just forming [Peeta’s] name when his fingers lock around my throat.” OMG! Peeta’s been brainwashed into a sleeper assassin!
SPLIT POINT #3: Katniss goes to District 2
As the forces of District 13 edge closer to invading the Capitol, one of the last strongholds is a giant mountain facility called the Nut in District 2, which has remained loyal to the Capitol. Gale’s plan is to trap the Nut-dwellers and kill them all.
The climax: In the heat of the bloody, brutal battle, Katniss makes a risky and rousing speech, asking everyone to join together to fight their common enemy: The Capitol.
The cliffhanger: The speech doesn’t work: Katniss is shot. OMG! Will she survive?!
Of these three, I think I like the last one the most, since it’s the only one that involves Katniss directly. But where do you think Mockingjay Part 1 should end?