It’s the last part of our Let’s Watch of the first movie! We’ll continue with Catching Fire with no break in update frequency, then move right along to Mockingjay Pt. Hey We Can Copy The Harry Potter Movies And Make More Money If We Split The Last One In Two.
Gamebro is a little worried over the fact that the Games are triggering riots (GEE WHO COULD HAVE EVER FUCKING GUESSED THAT WOULD HAPPEN) and for some reason discusses the matter with Woody Harrelson, who urges him not to kill Katniss, supposedly because it will turn her into a martyr. Instead he suggests giving the Districts something to root for: young love. Just go with it.
Gamebro brings this idea back to President Snow as if it’s his own, but Snow points out that District 11 (Rue’s one) and 12 (Katniss’) produce vital materials like coal and food and could damage the Capital if they rebelled.
Then…. why are you oppressing them in the first place? Wouldn’t it make more sense to keep them happy and compliant? In fact why segregate the Districts by function at all, thereby ensuring that they can easily cripple you? District 11 could call the Capital’s bluff and just refuse to work, since they have all the food. Enjoy your famine, assholes.
Anyway an announcement comes through (from…somewhere) that the rules of the Game have changed: two people can now win as long as they’re both from the same district. Katniss emerges from the stupor Rue’s death put her in and realizes she can now work together with OHD. It’s not directly stated, but they’re one of the few district pairs who have both members surviving, so that’s a massive advantage over the other Tributes.
She manages to find OHD hiding with his goofy-ass camouflage makeup (Rue told her his rough location before she died), but he’s sustained a bad leg injury. They need sponsorship supplies, but how to get them? Katniss pretending to be in love with him, of course! We even get a quick cut away (we get one for this shit, but not the Tributes dying?) to First Hot Dude looking all surly and peeved. Also why the fuck is Katniss’s sister watching this?
The entire trilogy milks this angle for all its worth, with progressively higher and higher stakes being placed on whether or not Katniss and OHD want to bone each other. It’s just as clunky and awkward as it sounds.
The plan works somewhat- a canister of soup arrives, with a note from Woody Harrelson telling Katniss to kiss OHD more. That night another announcement is made: a huge supply drop is going to take place at the cornucopia, and it will contain one item that each Tribute needs. Which is a pretty smart way of getting them all in the same place for entertainment purposes. Watching kids wander around aimlessly and sit in trees can’t make for good dystopian TV.
Katniss figures medicine for OHD will be there, so she waits for him to fall asleep and then takes off, ready to kick ass and take names.
At the drop site, Katniss sees the red-haired girl who previously stole from the Careers grab her bag easily by apparently hiding inside the cornucopia and then waiting for the supplies to be delivered. This character gets a lot more focus in the book, where it becomes apparent that her whole strategy is being way smarter than everyone else in really awesome ways. She’s probably my favourite character in the trilogy despite having no dialogue at all. I don’t think we ever even learn her name.
Katniss grabs her bag, but is ambushed by one of the Career tributes. She’s about to kill Katniss but stops to gloat and taunt her about Rue’s death (because the Careers are villains, as we’ve previously established). By a stroke of remarkable bad luck the boy from Rue’s district is nearby and overhears this, and he bashes her head in, believing that she was the one who did the deed. Katniss is defenseless, but he lets her go in a one-time-only act of mercy in thanks for helping Rue. I have no idea how the hell he even knew about that, but whatever.
The medicine Katniss got is some sort of paste she applies to OHD’s wound. His injury is infected badly enough that he’s running a fever and becoming delirious, so wouldn’t he need antibiotics or something?
OHD tries to insist that Katniss use some of it on the cut she sustained during the fight for the supplies, but she initially refuses. This is one area where I think the book is an improvement on the movie: if I remember correctly in the book it’s made quite clear that Katniss is acting mostly out of self interest here, keeping OHD alive so they can avail of the two-winners rule and acting selfless and doting for the cameras. In the movie you can tell through Jennifer Lawrence’s performance that something isn’t quite right, but her motivations are harder to understand.
Somehow this stirs all of the techies in the control room and their hearts grow three sizes or whatever. I’m calling MAJOR BULLSHIT on this. They watched Rue’s death without batting an eyelid, but two bland teenagers making moon-eyes at each other moves them to tears?
The next morning Katniss and OHD’s wounds are almost entirely healed (I guess that was magical future-paste) and it starts to sink in that they actually stand a good chance of winning since they’re the only district-pair left. They resolve to go out and hunt down the three other Tributes remaining. I know neither of them have shown a propensity for killing so far, but I can absolutely believe that they’d become ruthless now that winning seems like an actual possibility.
But first, gotta find some food. Katniss hunts while OHD goes off to forage. I don’t know why the fuck splitting up seems sensible, the fact that they’re working together is their trump card and OHD is both unarmed and has no combat skills.
By the way, as much as I’m skeptical whenever this franchise is given feminist cred, I do like how Katniss is portrayed as the main combatant and hunter of the pair whereas OHD’s abilities tend more toward smarts and cunning. The story even makes a point of showing that he’s got the typical masculine advantage of strength, but that hardly ever becomes relevant.
(If you’re wondering where said skepticism comes from: The Hunger Games, along with a whole lot of popular YA novels, has a bad trend of portraying Katniss as the lone Exceptional Woman whose life revolves utterly around men and male figures, apart from her sister)
Anyway Katniss hears the cannon signifying that a Tribute has died and hauls ass back to where OHD was to find his coat next to a pile of berries that she recognizes as extremely poisonous, but which he obviously hasn’t. These two events are quite alarming when taken in combination, but it turns out OHD hadn’t eaten any of the berries yet and is fine. Katniss freaks out and gets weepy in a way that’s obviously not faked this time, thus signifying that love is blooming on the battlefield.
So who actually died? Unfortunately it’s the awesome red-haired girl, who it turns out was following Katniss and OHD to avail of any food sources they found. She saw OHD gathering the berries, assumed they were safe and ate them. Damn it this scene makes me legit sad, I want an awesome red haired girl spin-off movie 😦
Katniss takes the berries with the vague idea that they might come in handy in taking out Kato or the dude from District 11. CHECKOV’S GUN ACTIVATED.
Somehow the techies cause night to fall early just by moving a slider. No, I have no idea how they’re doing any of this. The arena obviously isn’t virtual reality or anything. Then another techie makes a holographic dog thing and presses it into the screen; this causes real dogs to erupt from the ground all over the place. HOW THE FUCK DOES THIS WORK? If the Capital can create matter from nothing, why do they need the Districts at all?
(In the book these dogs were created from the corpses of the dead Tributes)
I always thought this shit with the dogs and the fireballs was kind of unfair; the competition is supposed to be a deathmatch between the contestants, not a contest to see who can survive the Capital fucking with them the longest. And doesn’t it remove all the tension? There’s only three people left (the guy from District 11 is killed off-screen during this scene); any one of them stand a good chance of winning by just hiding somewhere and letting the dogs finish the rest off.
Although then again maybe not, since Katniss and OHD decide to proceed on foot instead of climbing a tree and picking the murder-dogs off with the long-range weapon Katniss has and which she is extremely proficient with.
The dogs give chase and instead of doing what I just suggested Katniss and OHD run to the cornucopia and climb onto it. Unfortunately it turns out Kato had the same idea and a fight ensues, with the dogs waiting below to eat whoever is knocked off.
Kato is pretty good and he eventually ends up taking OHD as a human shield, with Katniss pointing an arrow at him. Despite this advantage he’s badly wounded and seems to have lost his cool since we saw him before, telling Katniss to shoot and kill them both since he doesn’t believe he can win, but at the same time he can’t or won’t give up because killing for his District is the only thing he knows how to do. He starts looking to the sky (and the invisible cameras), and starts shouting at the watching Capital…ites(?) in an “are you not entertained” sort of way.
Now this is what we should have had more of: the Tributes acting like the scared, desperate teenagers they are and acknowledging the horror of the situation they’re in. This one scene is the most psychologically and thematically mature in the entire story, not because it’s brilliant but because it’s the only point where the story seems to acknowledge what it’s actually about.
Anyway Katniss pulls off a sick shot on his hand and OHD uses the distraction to knock him off the cornucopia. The murder-dogs start to tear him apart, but Katniss fires one last arrow to kill him mercifully.
So they’ve won, right? They can go home?
NOPE turns out the Capital was just trolling them with the “two victors” thing and one of them has to die. What is this, Calvinball? It’s supposed to be televised entertainment, there’s no way audiences would accept this sort of thing. And it’s blatantly unbalanced since Katniss is standing there with an arrow knocked in her bow and OHD is unarmed. If they actually turned on each other as intended, Katniss would just shoot him with no challenge. Saying “one of you has to die” is basically saying “Katniss wins”.
OHD tells her to kill him, but Katniss has another idea, and takes out the death-berries they found earlier. We now come to one place where the movie differs entirely due to its format: in the book, as far as I remember, it’s made clear that both Katniss and OHD are intentionally calling the Capital’s bluff here by pretending they’re going to commit suicide simultaneously and forcing them to choose between having two winners or having no winner. In the movie it’s really not clear that Katniss has any sort of plan (she just says “trust me”) and it initially comes off like they’re actually intending to go through with it.
Over the course of the movie we’ve been seeing Gamebro fuck up in various ways (eg the riots in District 11), get reprimanded by President Snow and become more and more flustered as things start going wrong. Turns out this is why: when he realises there’ll be an uproar if no victor is crowned he panics and declares them both winners.
A big ship thing descends to take them away, then we skip ahead some time and Woody Harrelson says that the authorities aren’t happy with Katniss making a fool of them. She’s like “whatevs fuck them” but couldn’t they just kill her? They’re a dictatorship. They run an annual competition where kids are forced to murder each other. The could have her shot and then say she slipped in the shower and no one would question it.
There’s an ending montage sequence that’s actually pretty cool and well directed, with awesome music. Gamebro gets led to a room containing a bowl filled with death-berries (the obvious implication being that he should kill himself or face execution), Katniss and OHD become celebrities, Katniss has to pretend to be totally in love with OHD to explain her actions (why isn’t “I didn’t want to die or kill him” believable enough?) and the seeds are planted for an incredibly contrived romance.
Will Katniss develop True Love eventually????
Back in District 12 everyone is super happy, except for First Hot Dude who is jealous over OHD. I’m not sure why we’re supposed to give a shit since he’s had like two and a half minutes of screentime. Meanwhile President Snow looks on and is all ominous over the fact that Katniss is becoming a symbol of hope. Just fucking have her assassinated dude.
But hey, at least you survived the Hunger Games Katniss! Don’t worry the sequel totally won’t find a reason to shove you back into them and basically retread the same plot.
What to say about the first movie overall? It’s got some good aspects, but there are three main flaws with the story, all of which are mirrored in the source material and most of which will only get worse going forward:
- The setting is vague and nonsensical. The Capital is a cartoonish evil empire that does evil things for the lulz. They don’t have any sensible motivation for anything.
- The story ties itself into knots in order to elevate the romance to a position of supreme importance and keeps coming up with barely-coherent reasons why Katniss has to pretend to be in love with OHD.
- The reality TV aspects and lampooning of the media are totally at odds with what’s actually going on in the story. Whenever that starts up it feels like the characters are travelling into a parallel universe that’s only barely connected to the previous one.
Can the following three movies work past these problems? We’ll find out!