By Esther Zuckerman
Updated November 22, 2014 at 12:00 PM EST
Murray Close
  • Movie

Spoiler alert: If you haven’t read Mockingjay and don’t have a desire to know what happens in the second half of the book, you probably shouldn’t read this post. {C}Mockingjay — Part 1 leaves us with a haunting image. Katniss, eyes bloodshot, neck in a brace, goes to look at an isolated, hijacked Peeta, who’s thrashing alone in a room. He’s the one who has wounded her; though he’s been rescued from the Capitol’s control, he has been hijacked by tracker jacker venom that makes him perceive the girl he loves as a threat. It’s a fitting place to end, not just because the film stops pretty much in the very middle of Suzanne Collins’s text; this endpoint also gives the next movie plenty of time to sufficiently ramp up to its dramatic climax.

If Josh Hutcherson wasn’t in Mockingjay — Part 1 enough for your liking, don’t worry. Peeta’s even more of a focus in Part 2—but not as the sweet boy with the bread we met in The Hunger Games. Though Peeta’s still battling with the effects of the Capitol’s abuse for much of the second half of the book, the question of who Katniss ultimately will choose still lingers. Meanwhile, Gale begins to show how willing he is take lives for the purposes of winning the war. (There’s also more Johanna Mason—good news, if Jena Malone turns in a performance that’s half as well done as her work in Catching Fire—who in turn is recovering from the torture inflicted on her by the Capitol.)

The action will really get underway in Part 2 as a group—including Katniss, Gale, Finnick, Cressida, and eventually Peeta—take to the Capitol. Though they are mostly tasked with making propos and staying out of real combat, Katniss has her mind set on going off and killing President Snow herself; she’s rightly wary of President Coin’s designs. Peeta’s addition to the squad is seen by Katniss as an attempt by Coin to kill her, but he’s attempting to regain control of his memories by asking whether events in his head are “real or not real.”

This section of the book is a gruesome and convoluted journey, featuring a number of big character deaths caused by the Capitol’s horrifying defenses. (The return of mutts, anyone?) Those that have read the book know that the climax features perhaps the most troubling death—caused not by the Capitol, but by District 13, employing ruthless weaponry likely built by Gale and Beetee. In the denouement, Katniss finally gets her chance to kill Snow—but justice is not so simple in Panem, especially after Coin suggests a final Hunger Games with the Capitol’s children.

Filmmakers, naturally, could have made some alterations to the story. Still, key elements of the second half of Mockingjay even further prompts the question of how on Earth this movie will be rated PG-13. Though, yes, there is a somewhat happy epilogue, Collins doesn’t wrap her story up with any easy answers on the nature of good and evil. These are murky, bloody waters the filmmakers have to tread—and we’ll have to wait until next year to see how they do it.

The Hunger Games

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • Gary Ross