Tag Archives: suspense

A Cleverly Disguised Lesson

My normal movie review consists of one or two sentences. Something like “Good film.” Seriously, because I’ve never been a big fan of critics of books or film, thinking that they represent a sort of a “those who can’t do, criticize” situation. But this review is actually a cleverly disguised lesson in story and structure. It’s short, but not as short as my norm. For the record, my official review is, “If you liked the first two movies, you’ll like this one.” Now, on to the cleverly disguised lesson. Be warned, I’m going to completely spoil the ending.

The first part of the third part of the Hunger Games trilogy follows the book closely. That makes sense, since the original author also wrote the adaptation. If you’ve read the book, you know what happens, so I won’t go into that. It’s a well done movie, except for the ending. Right near the end of the film, the team from District 13 rescues the Victors from the capitol, including Peeta, the love of our protagonist’s life. For those who don’t know, Peeta and Katniss (the protagonist of the whole story) go way back, and of course they are in love. So it is a shock to Katniss when Peeta tries to choke her to death. The last moment of the scene where he does that has the head of security for District 13 knocking Peeta unconscious as Katniss pssses out, then it fades to black. Now that’s a great ending! What the Hell is going on here? Devoted viewers want to know! Unfortunately, this film actually shows the answer.

Ending the chapter there (and that’s what this film is, a chapter in a larger story) would have been a wonderful thing to do. People who had not read the books would be on tenterhooks for a year until part two came out. It would have been a great way to keep up interest in the story, and especially in the last segment of it. But, “hey, we’re filmmakers! We don’t need no steenkin’ story structure!” (I guess that’s what they thought.) The explanation is that Peeta was cruelly brainwashed. Katniss wakes up, and as President Coin gives a rousing speech, Katniss sneaks off to see Peeta through an observation window, strapped to a bed and writing in agony. Okay, still not a good thing, but, in terms of building suspense, a large let down! Now instead of “What the Hell is going on?” viewers are left with “Gee, hope Peeta’s going to be okay.” The ending could be worse, but consider that Peeta is not the protagonist! If he were killed the story would have continued. It’s nice that he’s alive, and it’s a bit of mystery as to how it will all come out, but really, this is Katniss’s story, so focusing on Peeta at the end is, pffffft!

Katniss is the protagonist, heroine if you prefer. She’s the one that we’ve been following all along, and she’s the one we worry about. Shortly before Peeta tries to kill her, President Coin tells her that she’s one of the people who somehow find the strength to carry on in spite of everything. So, Peeta’s death, while tragic, would not stop the story. Katniss’s death would. This isn’t a filmmaking storytelling error on the level of the Lord of the Rings fiasco, but it’s a bad mistake. You need to end a chapter on a note of rising tension and uncertainty for the main character, not a problem with a supporting actor. When you’re writing a chapter, keep in mind that the ending has to make the reader want to turn the page and start the next chapter RIGHT NOW! For a secondary character to heal or not, we can wait.

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