Let’s Watch Catching Fire pt.1

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In the first movie Katniss and her bland love interest Other Hot Dude won the 74th annual Hunger Games. What adventures await them now? Will the evil President Snow squash the spark of rebellion that Katniss’ actions have created? Will there be an annoying love triangle? Will the story present a convoluted reason for Katniss to be thrown back into the Games? Let’s find out!

(But the answer to all three of those questions is yes)

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PINE FOREST

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KATNISS

The cinematography in this opening bit is amazing and I really wish it was the start of a better movie.

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Unfortunately this guy shows up to ruin things. It’s First Hot Dude (FHD), who appears to have aged by about ten years since the last time we saw him. He makes awkward small talk with Katniss and we find out she’s on a post-Games victory tour of the Districts, which is due to leave District 12 in a few hours. The situation between them is strained because FHD is now toiling away in the mines and Katniss is a celebrity.

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LOOK AT HOW GORGEOUS THIS IS

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While hunting for turkeys Katniss has some sort of PTSD flashback of that guy she shot during the Games and goes into a panic attack. I’m glad the story recognises that anyone who actually survives an ordeal like that would have serious mental health problem afterwards, a fact that (assuming this follows the plot of the book) is driven home later when we get to meet more victors. And keep in mind, Katniss only had to straight-up murder one person (the other one was a mercy kill), in an effort to save someone else’s life; imagine how you’d come out the other end if you won by hunting down and slaughtering the other tributes.

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FHD gets all pissy about the fact that Katniss pretended to be in lurve with OHD (why? they weren’t going out before, were they?), then kisses her in one of those stupid and selfish “you’re going away so I have to tell you I love you well enjoy feeling sad and conflicted while you’re gone” gestures.

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Katniss and her family get to live in a big fancy neighbourhood reserved exclusively for Hunger Games victors, which seems to have a shit load of houses in it even though I’m pretty sure it’s established later that only three people from District 12 have ever won.

I don’t get what the point of giving the victors ostentatious wealth is; to make everyone else jealous and resentful? It can’t be seen as a reward for playing by the Capital’s rules, since the Tributes are chosen at random.

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Katniss goes to Woodie Harrelson’s house and finds him drunk off his ass. OHD and his incredible jaw structure are also there. He’s also acting like a pissbaby over the fact that Katniss told him she doesn’t actually love him. Well gosh, how will our heroine choose between these two passive-aggressive whiners???

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Katniss gets a visit from Colonel Sanders President Snow. He’s mad because people in some districts viewed her bluff with the poison berries as an act of defiance (but not her gesture after Rue’s death that triggered a riot) and that’s bad because, apparently, no Tribute has ever done anything rebellious before. That’s not directly stated, but it’s the only explanation for why Snow is flipping his shit about this so heavily.

This is a major stumbling point for me- is the berry thing really that big a deal? Couldn’t he just wait for its impact to fade as the victory tour ends and Katniss’ celebrity dies out? No, apparently this is some kind of huge problem that has to be dealt with straight away. Katniss has to convince people that she was acting purely out of lurve for OHD and not rebellion. But how? Doing an interview with that blue-haired dude where she says “hey let me tell you about that berry thing and also rebelling against the Capital sucks”? No! She has to pretend really really hard to be in love with OHD.

Oh and during this conversation Snow reiterates the point that District 13 was wiped out of existence by nuclear weapons. Got that? District 13 is gone. It’s totally destroyed. Like, don’t even think about it anymore, because District 13? I don’t even know what you’re talking about. Also Voldemort is dead and not coming back, just an fyi.

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It’s Effie Trinket! Unfortunately she now takes way more after how she’s portrayed in the book, eg she’s annoying.

You’ve no doubt noticed that Snow is the only person in the Capital who doesn’t dress like an Austin Powers villain. Apparently whoever was in charge of the costume design for the movies/Suzanne Collins realised that having his style be consistent with everyone else would make it impossible to take him seriously, but for some reason this didn’t prompt them to just scrap the entire wacky fashion thing completely.

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Cinna’s here too. Apparently he’s a huge fashion mogul after impressing everyone with his outfits for Katniss and OHD before the games. I don’t know about you but if I heard that the guy who dolled me up so I could be murdered on live TV got famous off the experience I’d probably tell him to go fuck himself but whatever, I guess Katniss is more tolerant.

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I’m not sure why everyone is suddenly using these hologram projector things when the last movie showed that this culture has normal LCD/plasma screens with significantly better image quality and size. Imagine trying to watch a movie using this technology.

You see this kind of thing in sci-fi a lot. Back in the 90s and early 2000s it was apparently widely assumed that computers of the future would use wacky 3D holographic displays or that the internet would become some sort of full-immersion VR experience*, but none of the writers using these ideas seemed to stop and wonder whether they’d actually be more convenient or more user-friendly than what people had at the time.

Seriously, if you had the option of getting a mid-range 32-inch TV or that thing up there with its washed out colours, fuzzy image quality and picture that fades out around the edges for some reason, which would you go for?

*(My favourite example of this was Tom Clancy’s Netforce, which presented a completely unwieldy cyber-internet where people drove around in cars all the time, presumably because Clancy/his ghost writer heard the phrase “information super-highway” and ran with it. Then a spin-off series aimed at kids came out and was clearly written by someone who had actually used the internet before, because its version of the same concept seemed relatively functional by comparison).

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Katniss and OHD appear for the cameras and they pull off a credible impression of being in love, mostly thanks to Katniss. Shouldn’t she have told him that their lives now depend on keeping up the charade? If Snow is willing to kill her so she won’t be used as a figure of rebellion, wouldn’t he kill him as well?

Afterward OHD acts like a piss-baby again. God I hate these characters.

They take a train out of District 12 and Effie runs down all the celebrations they’ll attend at each District (I’m sure that won’t be awkward). You know, Effie gets real short shrift, but it’s clearly shown that she works her ass off as Katniss and OHD’s agent/manager/publicist, for which she receives pretty much zero thanks. I think we’re supposed to see her as inherently corrupt and immoral because she’s part of the system that props up the games. That’s perfectly fair, but why is Cinna not judged the same way?

Case in point: Effie tells them that they’ve earned their fame, and Katniss snaps that they did it by killing people and stomps off with a case of the mopes. Oh, but when Cinna put you in the stupid fire dress so you’d receive favours that the other terrified kids wouldn’t have, that was totally awesome.

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WHY DOES THIS MOVIE LOOK SO GOOD

I feel like after the Deathly Hallows movies came out someone decided that adaptations of YA novels should have ultra gorgeous cinematography and set design.nAlthough on the other hand this is also the movie franchise that gave us the absolutely hysterical gun-dancing video.

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Remember this thing? It’s going to be important later.

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Mr. Gorm-face comes in and stops being a pissbaby, telling Katniss that he knows she deceived him so they could both survive and that they should try and be friends in real life so they can play up to the cameras better. What’s this? People in a YA romance communicating and being sensible? HAS HELL FROZEN OVER ARE PIGS FLYING

This scene is the first moment where you start to see why Katniss and either of the Hot Dudes would actually like each other. They start talking about what their favourite colour is and shit and it’s actually kind of cute and endearing.

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When the train goes through a scary dystopian tunnel Katniss spots graffiti depicting her mockingjay pin. I don’t think this scene was in the book, which had a problem where the revelation that Katniss’ actions have been noticed by an actual rebel faction kind of came out of nowhere. This is some nice foreshadowing.

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The first stop on the victory tour is District 11 (Rue’s district). Katniss freezes up at the idea of the speech since it involves giving a eulogy for the fallen tributes from the district, so OHD, continuing his commitment toward not being a douche-waffle, offers to handle the talking for her.

During the speech he suddenly develops a personality and becomes an interesting character, going off-script to deliver a heartfelt eulogy for Thresh and Rue that doesn’t come out and directly condemn the games but which does acknowledge that they were too young to die. He also states that he and Katniss will donate a portion of their rations to the families each year for the rest of their lives.

This in turn gives Katniss the strength to address Rue’s family, and it’s clear that she’s seeing OHD in a new light. A sexy light.

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An old man does the hand signal thing, which in turn prompts everyone else to copy him. I am a huge sucker for scenes where people all do something simultaneously in an inspiring way.

This should have been the moment that both put Katniss on the resistance’s radar and made her a threat in the eyes of the Capital, not that shit with the berries. In fact I’d have made this the final scene of the first movie for that very reason.

Also, how badass are the people in District 11? Can we get a book about these guys?

This whole scene is really well done and gripping, which furthers my belief that The Hunger Games is only good when it isn’t abut the hunger games.

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Since the Capital security forces are jackasses they drag the old man to the front of the crowd and shoot him.

Okay, no. This isn’t how you dystopia. You just created a martyr on live TV. The smartest course would be to let the act of disobedience slide, then kick the dude’s door down in the middle of the night and haul him off. That’s far more chilling, scares people instead of riling them up and relies on word of mouth to get the threat across.

Naturally seeing someone get shot in the back of the head does nothing for Katniss’ mental state, and also furthers her worry about Snow seeing her as a focal point of rebellion (I don’t think it strains believability at all that Katniss went off-script even with his threat hanging over her, as it was a highly emotionally charged moment).

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OHD is understandably a little pissed that Katniss didn’t tell him about this earlier, as he wouldn’t have deviated from the script if he had known and he now believes his family may be in danger.

Woody Harrelson delivers some Truth Bombs about the fact that the media storm is never going to end: Katniss and OHD will be mentors from now on, and every year their unconventional victory will be rehashed again. So in other words they get to spend the rest of their lives training kids who are almost certainly going to be killed while being forced to constantly relive the most horrible and traumatic thing that’s ever happened to them. Jesus. Maybe winning the Hunger Games is worse than losing.

For the rest of the tour Katniss and OHD deliver the bland platitude they’ve been given, but it’s clear that Katniss is unable to really commit to the love-story fantasy they’re supposed to be selling as she seems robotic and wooden on camera. This isn’t helped by the fact that more people keep doing the rebel hand signal during her speeches and are promptly dragged off.

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We see this vaguely Prim-like girl pledge to one day volunteer for the Games in emulation of Katniss. It cuts straight from this to Katniss waking up screaming from a dream so I’m not entirely sure if it was supposed to be real. Either way, pretty horrifying!

Part of me wonders if this is someone offering a bit of sly commentary on Katniss being presented as a feminist role model for young girls, the thinking being that a story about kids being forced to murder each other is maybe not the best place to look for inspirational figures (not necessarily saying I’d agree with that view). Apparently Nerf didn’t see it that way.

Anyway the important part of this scene is that Katniss asks OHD to comfort her, which means they’re falling in lurve even more. Man Snow should just show people footage of this instead of all the public lovey-dovey bullshit.

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People start getting pissed that Katniss is now toeing the party line, which worries Snow a great deal. This just makes the whole “pretend to be in love” thing even more ridiculous, as the reason people look up to Katniss and the unrest she’s spreading has absolutely nothing to do with how she’s supposedly in love with some gormless jackass. Snow’s threat should have been “keep your mouth shut and don’t say anything to rile people up.”

Actually, here’s a better way to manipulate the situation: have Katniss deliver vaguely inflammatory and/or rebellious platitudes (preferably criticising some sort of non-specific flaw or malaise in the current system rather than any concrete entity or person) then when she’s at the height of popularity stage a scandal of some kind (cheating on Gorm-face, maybe) to turn everyone against her and discredit her message. Boom!

Clearly I should be in charge of Panem instead of the Kentucky Fried Dictator.

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9 thoughts on “Let’s Watch Catching Fire pt.1

  1. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

    This series would make a lot more sense if the Hunger Games weren’t an incredibly stupid way that the capital punishes the districts and actually were just an incredibly cruel form of entertainment for the capital. It would explain:

    Why Snow doesn’t just have Katniss killed, since the Hunger Games aren’t as overtly about punishment.

    Why the second book is just a rehash of the first that has everyone compete in another round of the Hunger Games, since it would just be an escalation of last year’s wildly popular games.

    Why there’s a need for a revolution to overthrow a system that is still all kinds of fucked up and oppressive.

    And a lot of other stupid plot points. Best of all this would be a better dystopia since it’d be about how everyone contributes directly or indirectly to a system that allows children to be killed for entertainment instead of having obviously evil people in charge of an obviously evil. But having well meaning people in charge of a brutal dehumanizing system would never work in a Hollywood movie.

    Reply
  2. zephyrean

    I am okay with stupid costumes, I just wish they were inflicted more consistently. It conveys how modern onepercenter fashion is viewed by poor people.

    Reply
  3. reveen

    People need to understand the difference between dictatorship and full blown totalitarian dystopia. Sure, a military junta led by a nutcase warlord might immediately shoot people in the face for minor acts of rebellion. But a smart oppressor knows that having a voice of dissent under your control is a great way to get agitators to stick their heads out. Hell, the fucking FBI and CIA did shit like this.

    Back in the 90s and early 2000s it was apparently widely assumed that computers of the future would use wacky 3D holographic displays or that the internet would become some sort of full-immersion VR experience*

    Lol, have you seen/played the FMV game Ripper? That’s a pretty goofy one.

    Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      I have a theory that the book as originally written didn’t have the love triangle in it, mainly due to the fact that Gale is practically non-existent up until the third book. He reads like a character who was never intended to be an actual love interest.

      Reply
      1. Hal

        I never thought about it, but that makes a lot of sense. I did think Gale was a pretty out of nowhere love interest that mattered despite being utterly nonexistent for like two books.

        Reply
      2. dbrvnk

        Tbh, I didn’t even notice there was supposed to be a love triangle, but I think that was mostly because my energy was spent on annoyance at the utterly immersion-breaking worldbuilding, bad characterisation, and how clueless Katniss was.

        Reply
  4. Signatus

    I just remembered why I never bothered to read these books. The love triangle. A friend of mine wouldn’t shut up about the f…. love triangle. That completely put me off the intention of reading this trilogy.

    Anyways, the whole, “pretend to be in love” seems like the stupidest way to force a romance that just isn’t happening. It doesn’t make sense in the story, and it is obviously simply a resource used by Collins to make the “love” happen for no reason whatsoever. They could have been awesome friends and that’s it. We don’t need a romantic relationship in every friggin novel.

    The rebellion thing seems like it can be interesting, tho.

    Reply

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