Let’s Watch Catching Fire pt. 3

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It turns out our series on Catching Fire is going to be longer than anticipated, because there’s a lot more things for me to nitpick and complain about plot than the first movie. We’re not even halfway through yet!

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Woodie Harrelson briefs our heroes on the other victors they’re going to be facing. The details we learn here actually touch on a few things I’ve flagged about the games before: one of the tributes  is said to be the youngest winner ever at age 14, which seemingly confirms my earlier speculation that the wide age range for selection means that younger kids are basically brought in as cannon fodder, and we meet two tributes who won by hiding until everyone else was dead. That means the Gamemakers obviously don’t take steps to prevent that strategy, and so you’d expect it to be the most common way for people to win instead of (apparently) being a notworthy anomaly.

Weirdly, the story seems to forget here that Katniss and OHD winning together was a special exception since several of the district pairs have matching skillsets and even look similar. Two of them literally are siblings, career tributes who won successive games, but how do you explain the others?

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This dude’s name is Finnick. He seems important.

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Yay more reality TV shit.

During this scene the crowd goes wild chanting Katniss’ name. Surely all of this is just making her more famous? Even if she dies in the Games, she’s going to be remembered. Whereas if she just disappeared mysteriously one day…

There’s a stupid scene where one of the other Tributes gets into an elevator with Our Heroes and strips naked for some reason (and Katniss is all outraged and stuff, because YA books always need a dose of slut-shaming), and then it’s training time!

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Gosh this all seems familiar for some reason.

Katniss and OHD go looking for allies. They steer away from the scary scary career tributes (who all seem to have kept up constant combat training in the years since their victories, judging by how fit and skilled they are) and zero in on two tech-focused victors who won through smarts.

So, the “victors are selected this time” thing has a significant drawback in terms of story drama, in that all of the competitors are adults. Katniss and OHD are the youngest present by far, and at 17 or thereabouts feel close enough to adult that it mitigates a lot of the horror inherent in the first story’s premise.

On the other hand, far more of the Tributes this time around are actually fleshed out into full characters. This is an improvement, but it’s wind of weird since it gives me the uncomfortable impression that the first book’s story didn’t really care about the child tributes very much.

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Plutarch and his cronies are watching the training, but this time they’re protected by a forcefield (which I guess the Capital has now? Their tech level keeps rising), presumably to avoid a repeat of the stunt Katniss pulled in the first movie.

Tech Dude says that there’s always a flaw in any system like this: in this case it’s that the forcefield is using up so much power it’s causing the lights and holograms in the room to flicker and malfunction. Why I believe I just heard the sound of a Checkov’s Gun being loaded.

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Katniss gets to be awesome at archery training. This scene is pretty cool.

Because of her badass skills she has the pick of the litter when it comes to allying with the other Tributes, but she chooses the Tech Duo and Mags, an eccentric (seemingly) mute old woman who volunteered in place of a younger victor. OHD and Woodie react as though this is a stupid choice, but it doesn’t really seem like one. Katniss saw from the red haired girl during the first movie that brains can be just as viable at helping you survive as combat skills, and Woodie told her that Tech Bro electrocuted six people, which probably makes him one of the most lethal people present from a sheer mortality perspective.

Also: Finnick is hell-bent on protecting Mags for some reason. If Katniss has Mags on her side she also has Finnick, complete with a powerful way of ensuring his loyalty… or of manipulating him, if the need arises. Compared to the career tributes who seem like they’d double cross her in a heart-beat if they saw her as a threat, those all seem like smart options.

The movie retreads ground for a while, with our heroes being individually assessed and being interviewed by Mr. Blue Hair. The only wrinkle in the former is that Katniss’ testing area contains this painting:

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Which is a bit of a dick move.

Man remember when Rue was alive in the first movie? Those were good times. I wish she was an actual character instead of a sacrificial lamb.

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This franchise continues to nail the TV aesthetic. I just wish it fit into the story better.

The interviews this time around are more interesting: all of the victors are celebrities and they’re understandably super pissed at being thrown back into the Games so they try various tactics (mostly appealing to audience sympathy) to get them called off.

Also Katniss acts like a complete fucking asshole by assuming one of the career tributes is faking it when she starts to cry (this is more in line with how I remember her from the books). Look, Katniss, just because your batch of Tributes was full of inexplicable emotionless super-kids with wills of steel doesn’t mean that’s going to be the norm.

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This lady does the thing I kept telling the Tributes to do last time, ie she starts yelling at the audience to go fuck themselves. It’s very cathartic.

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Katniss meanwhile gets to rebel through the medium of fancy clothes. This seems like it would be a great way for Cinna to get himself killed, considering how the symbol of the Mockingjay has already become an icon of resistance.

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NO ONE CARES ABOUT THIS GUY GET ON WITH IT

Actually OHD attempts a Daring Manoeuvre by claiming that Katniss is pregnant, which immediately has the audience calling for the Games to be called off.

You… you know they can test for that, right? It doesn’t take very long. I imagine with the Capital’s fancy future-tech it’s probably even easier than in real life. Anyway it doesn’t work and the Games go ahead as planned.

Aaaaand now we’re at the halfway point. Strap in folks, this is going to be a real marathon.

There’s some emotional farewells with Effie and Woodie, and Katniss reminds Woodie that he promised to do whatever it takes to keep OHD alive. WHY? WHY IS SHE SO FOCUSED ON THAT IT MAKES NO SENSE

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I guess they’re in love for real now. You never can tell when it comes to these hot, passionate 100% chaste YA romances.

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It’s time for the Quartile Quota! Katniss and co. enter this spaceship(?) for transportation to the arena. Meanwhile President Snow looks at footage of the Tributes holding hands at the previous night’s interviews and growls that he wants them all dead.

So fucking have them killed, dude. What, you think people are going to be mad if you take their favourite celebrities away? They’re already mad because you’re already doing that. I don’t think the Capitalites are so blinded by your bread and ironic city names circuses routine that they can’t work out that the Games are as much a death sentence as a firing squad.

And hey: what if Katniss wins again? Then you’ll just have to have her executed or assassinated like you should have done in the first place.

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Remember in the first movie when Katniss and Cinna had an anxious, tearful farewell while the announcer dude counted down to the start of the Games? Yeah it was good the first time.

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Hey remember when Cinna put the pin on her and

Then some security guys come in, beat the shit out of him and drag him off. Well damn dude, what did you expect after the dress? I’m surprised you made it out of the TV studio alive.

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It’s on an island this time! Surprise!

Katniss once more runs for a bow and manages to reach it this time. She’s about to shoot Finnick, but he announces that he intends to ally with her and OHD. Earlier Effie gave OHD and Woodie Harrelson a gold medallion and amulet as a symbol of their solidarity; Finnick is now wearing the bracelet to prove he’s on Katniss’ side, which suggests there are some shenanigans going on behind the scenes.

If Woodie was in on this, shouldn’t he have given Katniss a heads up? She comes extremely close to killing him before he can make his intentions clear. Then again if I remember correctly from the book, people not telling each other important things in order to facilitate plots twists will be a recurring feature going forward.

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Katniss and Finnick fight off some of the other Tributes and rescue Mags and OHD, then run into the jungle. Since the characters are mostly adults we can now see people getting killed without obscuring it with shaky-cam or cutting away… which, oddly, makes the violence seem much more tame. In the previous movie the fight scenes felt realistic and gruesome and actually showed some splashes of blood (the deaths here are all completely gore-free), whereas now the action is very much standard Hollywood fight scenes where people instantly drop dead the second they take a hit to their torso.

It turns out Finnick is kind of an asshole, which Katniss takes great umbrage at. The dude’s awesome at fighting and you’re supposedly hell-bent on keeping OHD alive for some reason, just put up with it Katniss.

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While hacking through some undergrowth OHD’s machete collides with a force-field concealing some kind of… something. If the Capital has forcefield technology, why didn’t they use it to gate off the arena during the previous Hunger Games instead of chasing Tributes back toward the action with fireballs?

Anyway OHD gets electrocuted so Finnick has to deliver CPR. You’ve seen this scene a million times– “come on!” “please wake up!”– and of course it works, as CPR always does in movies (in reality it has an extremely low success rate).

If you want to be really generous, you could posit that these movies somewhat earn the feminist cred often extended to them by making OHD near-useless and portraying Katniss as smarter, a better fighter, more observant, possessing better survival skills etc etc. I’m not sure I actually would, but, you know. You could. I guess.

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THEN THEY KISS FOR REAL

ARE YOU EXCITED

For some reason everyone including Mr. Grouchypants Finnick is super blown away by how totally in lurve they are. Remember kids, your first romance is the most important and significant thing that will ever happen to you, and your awkward adolescent love will conquer the very heavens.

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Check out this cool lizard

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Our heroes are on the hunt for fresh water since it’s mega hot. Help comes in the form of Woodie Harrelson, who sends a thing to tap trees for water. I don’t know whether that’s a thing you can do in the rainforest. I’ll assume you can.

That night a gong or something starts ringing in the distance and everyone is like “da fuq”. It rings twelve times, then a buttload of lightning strikes in the distance.

So the movie drags its heels about explaining this, but basically the island is split into twelve segments like a clock, and every so often one of them “activates”, loosing some kind of extreme hazard on anyone in that segment. Like I said last time: are the Tributes supposed to be fighting each other or are they supposed to be fighting the arena?

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EVIL POISON FOG

Everyone runs for it, but after a tense chase scene OHD and Katniss are both injured by the smoke (it causes painful boils to erupt over your body). Katniss can walk, OHD can’t, but she’s too hurt to carry him and Finnick is carrying Mags. Mags steps up to the plate and walks off into the fog so OHD can live.

Huh. I… kind of assumed that character was going to have a more important role in the story.

It seems our heroes are doomed even despite this sacrifice, but they manage to stumble across the border of their section and the fog stops chasing them. I can’t remember, but I think how this works is that every time a trap activates all of the previous sections that were activated come back online as well, thus shrinking the number of safe sections with each activation.

I had the idea that you could get around this by going to the Cornucopia where all of the sections meet, thus making it very easy to move into a safer section when the traps come on, but of course that has the disadvantage that other people will probably come to the same conclusion. Even if you decide not to take the risk, assuming the island is roughly circular you’d need to strategically decide whether to stay away from the middle– which gets you far from the crowded area but means traversing the sections takes longer– or stay close to the edges where the opposite conditions hold true.

From the viewpoint that this is all supposed to be entertainment, wouldn’t it be better to explain this to the Tributes beforehand? Otherwise there’s a real chance all of them could end up in the wrong place when the traps go off and die instantly. Hell, in this particular incident Katniss and co. would all have been wiped out in their sleep if not for the fact that Katniss happened to wake up at the right time. Is that what the audience wants to see?

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5 thoughts on “Let’s Watch Catching Fire pt. 3

  1. Aaron Adamec-Ostlund (@AaronAO)

    Do they ever talk about what the rest of the world is like? Are there any other civilizations or humans outside of Panem? If they never do my head canon is that the Capital’s inexplicable decadence is the work of an even more advanced civilization using them for reality tv entertainment.

    Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      At the moment there hasn’t been a single mention of what the world is like beyond the confines of Panem. Assuming Panem is the name of the Capitals and the Districts combined and not just the Capital, they seem to go back and forth on that.

      I do actually appreciate the fact that the books largely dispense with world-building or trying to explain how the world got the way it is — a lot of dystopias seem completely rooted in our own present– but it would be nice to know a bit more about the current state of the world.

      By the way, there have been multiple attempts to map out the setup of Panem based on the books. Most of them seem completely random and arbitrary, possibly because the setup doesn’t actually make a lot of sense.

      Reply
  2. braak

    A thing that Catching Fire didn’t make clear to me is why exactly Katniss is good at shooting lots of arrows and different moving targets. I get why she’d be good with a bow for hunting reasons, but I got a hard time that hunting turkeys in Not!Appalachia enjoys a lot of crossover with, say, skills learned at the Battle of Agincourt.

    Reply

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