Spoiler alert! Do not continue reading if you don’t want to know about the ending of Catching Fire!
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire ends on Jennifer Lawrence’s face: Katniss learns that District 12 is no more, and that they’re heading to the secretly resurrected District 13. Katniss goes from frightened and sad to angry and determined. She is the Mockingjay.
When I spoke with Catching Fire’s producer Nina Jacobson last week, I asked her about how the final scene was conceived. It’s slightly changed from the book, which is longer and unfolds differently. Katniss comes in and out of consciousness a number of times, and gradually learns that she’s been the key part of a plan to overthrow President Snow’s dictatorial regime. She’s not happy to have been left out of the plan, and she’s furious that Peeta is now in the hands of the Capitol. This resentment from the traumas she’s undergone carries over into Mockingjay, the final book in Suzanne Collins’ trilogy.
Ending a book on a cliffhanger is one thing; ending a movie on a question mark is much trickier. Part 1 of Mockingjay doesn’t come out for another year, after all. How mindful, I asked Jacobson, were they about possibly disappointing the audience?
“Very mindful,” Jacobson said. “Especially because in the book a lot of information gets downloaded through dialogue in the final pages. And you just can’t do that in a movie. You can’t suddenly have this big action set piece and then let’s have a long chat and end the movie. We needed a lot of information to be communicated through looks and condensing what is the key information. We made a big decision to hold back on almost everything you’re going to learn about District 13 — you’re going to have to find out in Mockingjay. We just don’t have time here.”
And what about director Francis Lawrence’s decision to end on a close-up of Jennifer Lawrence’s face?
“I love the choice Francis made to end on that close-up of Jen,” she said. “I think it’s so bold. And she’s one of the few actors who can pull off a moment like that: To let the resolution that you’re going to get be all emotional and in her face is, I find, really powerful. But we were really mindful of making people feel like a journey had been completed. That as a character she had advanced.”
“But,” Jacobson added, “she couldn’t advance so much that her story is done.”