Warning: The following story contains MAJOR SPOILERS for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 and Part 2.
Fans of Suzanne Collins' novel Mockingjay have likely recognized several significant changes in the feature film adaptation The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD): Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) clearly takes a more active role in the revolution against President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and the Captiol; Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), MIA for most of the book, is brought back into the main story; President Coin (Julianne Moore) and District 13 aren't immediately as ominous a presence as they are in the book; and the film itself ends roughly halfway through the book, with the rescue of Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) from the Capitol and the discovery that he had been brainwashed (or "hijacked") into an assassin to kill Katniss.
There is another change, however, that could make arguably the biggest impact in the final film of the Hunger Games franchise, Mockingjay – Part 2: Katniss does not demand to kill Snow.
In Collins' novel, it is one of Katniss' key stipulations to Coin and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) before she agrees to take on the role of the symbolic Mockingjay in the rebellion against the Capitol. In the film, however, Katniss' list of demands includes no mention of Snow at all.
The reason, according to the filmmakers, had to do with the decision to break Mockingjay into two movies, and allow each film to have a clear objective.
"That's probably one of the biggest changes in the splitting of the book," director Francis Lawrence told BuzzFeed News. "The way that you can tell the two stories, for us, is that each story has its own dramatic question, has its own objective. In this one, Katniss is finally taking on the role as the symbol of the revolution and starting to step up and fight back. But the dramatic question is: Will we get Peeta back? … Part 2 is: Let's go get Snow."
When asked about this specific change, the Hunger Games team became wary of wading into tricky spoiler-filled waters for Mockingjay – Part 2 — Katniss' desire to kill Snow in the book has some surprising ramifications, to say the least. "For people who don't know the books, then I don't want to spoil that for them," producer Nina Jacobson told BuzzFeed News. "But … we wanted to let Katniss arrive [at the demand to kill Snow] a little bit more gradually. What's happened to Peeta informs that demand."
Even beyond the main objective to take out Snow, the second half of Collins' novel presents a far darker climax than most blockbuster franchises ever dare to go. And that is exactly why Lawrence wanted to direct the Mockingjay movies. "I went in saying, 'I want to make the books. I don't want to reinvent,'" he said. "There's always adaptation, because you have to take something from the page … and make it cinematic and visual. So there will always be some change. But I wasn't looking to reinvent."
At the same time, it sounds like the Mockingjay – Part 2 team also worked to be sure the film will not be just wall-to-wall bleakness and gloom. "We knew it was dark, and we looked at what wasn't dark, and really paid a lot of attention to it," screenwriter Peter Craig told BuzzFeed News. "Part of it is there's a lot of affection between the characters that you can't always show in moments where they're fighting in arenas, or when they're separated from each other. There's a love story that's emerging between Katniss and Peeta that is actually really, really sweet at its core. There's all these characters that have been reunited and genuinely care for each other."
If the main objective of Part 2 is "Let's go get Snow," then that conceit of characters reconnecting with each other — literally and figuratively — appears to be the film's emotional spine. "I feel like you can have darkness if you've got some redemption at the center of it," said Craig. "[Mockingjay – Part 2] is really completely about redemption, and all these people forgiving each other, and finding each other again. It might take you through a thicket, but you come out the other side."