Let’s Watch Mockingjay Pt.1

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No I mean part one as in the first post, not part one as in… okay, this is going to get confusing.

We’ve come to the third and, for our purposes, final Hunger Games movie, Mockingjay Part Check Out All The Cash-Money We Made By Splitting The Last Movie In Half. I’m kind of leery about this movie because all of the events I actually remember from the book appear in the trailer for part two, which makes me wonder what’s actually going to happen in it. Guess we’ll find out.

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We open with a traumatized Katniss recovering in District 13 shortly after the end of the previous movie. It seems her new caretakers have a pretty gruff disposition and don’t seem overly concerned for her mental well-being.

It’s understandable that Katniss would be affected this badly by the Games and the loss of OHD, but it’s also kind of a let down after Catching Fire’s final scene was her looking super pissed and ready to go out and start some shit. It ties into this whole story’s trend of telling us that Katniss is some kind of inspiring badass while largely putting her into powerless, helpless roles where her survival strategy is to act meek and keep her head down.

But hey, at least she doesn’t have pretend to be in love with a boring dude any more.

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Finnick is here as well! Along with OHD and Axe Woman, the Capital has also kidnapped “Annie”, the person whose screams he heard from the Jabberjibbers in Catching Fire. It would be nice if we actually got to know this person a bit better so her capture would have any weight at all.

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District 13 basically looks like Zion from The Matrix, in that it’s a big poorly-lit underground space with a lot of people milling around. The explanation for how this place is still here isn’t very satisfying: the surface was bombed to rubble, but they adapted to live underground and have been preparing ever since.

This immediately raises a lot of questions: did this huge underground bunker exist before the war, or was it built afterward? If it’s the latter why didn’t the Capital attack it to eliminate everyone, and if it’s the former how did they build it without anyone noticing? Did they make it in secret before the rebellion started? That seems kind of far fetched given how gigantic it is.

A military dude tells Katniss “for us, the war never ended”. Then what the fuck have they been doing for the last 75 years? I get that it would take a lot of time to rebuild and gather their military strength after being defeated, but 75 years. Come on.

Here’s a way better idea: District 13 was never destroyed at all, the Capital just said it was (all of the districts seem to be surrounded by gigantic empty wilderness and no one ever seems to travel between them, so its plausible that they could pull this off). In the books we learn that 13 was in charge of mining and refining nuclear material* and has the capacity to make nuclear weapons, so let’s say what actually happened is that they found themselves in a stalemate with neither side willing to pull the trigger and risk nuclear devastation, and they’ve spent the last 75 years in a cold war, with the Capital agreeing to leave District 13 alone as long as they don’t stir up trouble or announce their survival to the other Districts. Over successive administrations the Capital has grown complacent with this situation, allowing 13 to quietly start building its military power back up all sneaky-sneak like, and they’re only just now reaching the point where they feel confident moving into the open.

* I’m aware that District 13 being in charge of nuclear material opens up whole avenues of nonsensical plotting and backstory, but let’s just not even go there

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This is President Coin, the leader of District 13 and, by extension, the rebellion against the Capital. Hey isn’t it funny how District 13 and the Capital both call their leaders “President” followed by a single four-letter name? Just putting that out there.

Coin continues to build up the Cult of Katniss by talking about how her trick with the arrow at the end of the previous movie caused riots and strikes to break out across seven of the twelve districts (because, again, everyone was just sitting around waiting for Katniss to inspire them). District 13 wants to use this energy to kickstart an overthrow of The Man, which means it’s time for propaganda videos! More reality TV bullshit wheee!

Katniss doesn’t care about any of this and just wants District 13 to rescue OHD. Okay, fine. I get why she’d feel that way, especially with the loss being so recent. But don’t also try to sell me on the idea that she’s some kind of ultra-feminist rebel badass.

I do like how as soon as Katniss leaves Coin is like “wtf she’s crap, we should have rescued the dude instead”, indicating that her earlier praise was all just a clever ruse. Finally, someone who doesn’t begin worshipping Katniss on sight.

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Plutarch has Katniss brought to the ruins of District 12 so she can see what the Capital did to her homeland and be filled with burning anime fury.

How can District 13 fly planes around without giving their presence away? Aren’t the Capital watching their airspace? As far as we’ve been told this isolated society is the only political entity in existence, if unidentified planes start showing up then someone’s going to be like “either that’s aliens or there’s some mysterious shit happening, might want to look into it.”

And this isn’t like rescuing Katniss from the arena where you can assume it was somewhere isolated. They’re going to District 12, a Capital territory that was destroyed recently enough that there’s still smoke rising from the buildings. Wouldn’t there still be soldiers nearby, at least just to make sure everyone’s dead? Did the Capital just bomb the place and them immediately forget about it?

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I think I figured out how they padded this material to split into two movies: just make everything take longer than it should. A whole lot of these scenes of characters going from place to place feel weirdly stretched out; they get to the point where you expect a cut, but then they go on for just a bit longer, which over the course of an entire movie is going to add up.

Obviously slow pacing like this isn’t in itself a problem, but it’s unusual for a blockbuster aimed at a younger audience and having just seen the previous two movies it’s a very noticeable shift in pacing.

(The second to last Harry Potter movie did the same thing, but at least it looked really nice)

Anyway Katniss wanders around for a bit and then crawls over a giant pile of charred corpses. This movie is fun for all the family.

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Katniss’ house in the victor’s village is seemingly the only structure left standing (maybe Snow told the army not to bomb it for the lulz) and Katniss returns to retrieve some personal stuff, including Mr. Fluffy here.

So they don’t go into this much in the movies, but in the books Katniss is weirdly mean-spirited when it comes to this cat, even though it’s her sister’s beloved pet. Like, if I remember correctly she tells Prim she’s going to kill it at one point. It really makes her come across like a giant asshole, and I’ve always found this element of her character to be kind of baffling.

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Ol’ Colonel Sanders addresses his citizens, and also stages some public executions of people who publicly displayed the image of the Mockingjay.

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that the heroes only win in this story because Snow is a bumbling jackass who has no idea how to run a dystopian society. He acts strangely reluctant to just fucking kill people when it would clearly be beneficial to do so, but then responds to unrest by murdering people until the problem goes away.

Interestingly, this scene cuts back and forth between two locations; in one it appears to be mid-day, while in the other it’s night, which means the districts must be very far apart.

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Ugh this asshole is going to be in it more now isn’t he. I have a cold and I can’t look at Mr. Jerkface at the moment so we’ll end it here.

Making good progress! We’re, uh, less than twenty minutes into the movie.

God damn it I need to start making these shorter….

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3 thoughts on “Let’s Watch Mockingjay Pt.1

  1. Signatus

    This Lets Watch is going to be the only way I’m going to watch this movie. It’s been a while since I chose not to pay twice to watch one movie, and I’m not even investing twice the hours to watch a movie when It’s evidents it’s a cash grab. I remember when Titanic being over three hours was a thing, because there were not many movies that had reached that ammount of hours. I remember when you could get a story in an hour and a half, use a short free time to watch a film and then continue studying, or going to sleep or whatever. I miss that.

    Today films are going the same way as books. Huge and substanceless. One would have thought the bigger, the more stuff you’d get. The problem is they have completely forgotten that a story is not the number of pages it has, but the quality of the plot, writing and characterization. They seem so focused in getting more pages, more minutes, that they have completely forgotten how to tell a story. I have been there, I used to think more pages was better, so I would constantly add stuff that wasn’t part of the main plot I had in mind just to make it more complicated; “and now I’ll make the protagonist’s father a wizard, and he gets jailed because, and so the protagonist has to, and the bad guy, and then…” and maybe the story was about a merchants guild discovering some lost city or whatever. In the end what I got was a completely boring mess full of dribble and fillers which obviously only served to add more pages. I still remember the page and a half descriptions.

    Well, movies/books are going exactly that way. With books its obvious they are filling with whatever crosses their minds, and with movies they take what they have from the source material and expand it to make everything fit in a nearly 3 hours long movie. I don’t know how many pages has the book gotten, but I think not that many due to the size I “remember” from seeing it in bookstores. A book that long can’t have that much material to fit two movies of 3 hours each. The result is usually a first part which is booooriiiiiing, and a second part which is a bit more interesting but still dragged out through more minutes than it should, when a single movie would have been perfect. The last movie I saw like this was Harry Potter. Hated it. While I was a big fan, the last book was a big letdown for me. Specially the first half was boring, and I remember I used to say; “take the first fifteen pages, keep them, then take from page fifteen till the middle of the book and rip those 200 pages off. Now the book’s worth it.”. The movie focused precisely on that boring first half of the book I would have ripped off, dragging it for too long, making all the problems I had with that part stand out. The second part was more interesting, action packed and all, but it wasn’t enough to clean up the terrible experience with the first movie. So I decided, since Hollywood only cares about my cash, to show them my disagreement by directly and absolutely not consuming their broken, split in half, moneygrabbers.

    Reply
  2. haroldsmithson

    It’s always disappointing to think about the Hunger Games and compare what it was intended to be to what it actually became.

    Suzanne Collins is the daughter of a Vietnam War veteran who came back from the war traumatized. I see Katniss as a reflection of her father and Prim as a fictionalized version of Collins’ younger self. If you look at the outline it’s clear that this is supposed to be a serious war drama, or at least everything unrelated to the love triangle.

    I have a spurious opinion that the love triangle was never Collins’ idea and was forced on her by the publisher, because at no point is it as integral to the plot as Katniss’ acts of defiance or the tragedy of war. Collins might have gone with the (really weak) satire of reality TV angle as a way to work around this limitation. This was after the Twilight boom, and I’ve heard stories of young adult authors whose books were refused publication even if someone at the company thought they were good simply because there was no guarantee it would sell. I suspect something similar happened in Chaos Walking, where a love triangle is introduced in the second book and then unceremoniously shut down in the third. I have not found any evidence to back this theory, however.

    I think at some point Collins just bit off more than she could chew. The dull protagonist, world that runs entirely off conveniences rather than realistic systems, need to mesh goofy imagery to satirize reality television (my favorite is the moment Katniss shoots down a hovercraft with her bow and arrow while standing directly in their line of fire) with the grim realities of oppression and misery and cancerous love triangle all work against one another to produce something that, outside of Mockingjay’s ending sequence (by which I mean the book), succeed in absolutely nothing.

    The thing about Mockingjay Part 1 is that there are some good individual scenes (I think specifically of the scene in the bunker) where the script shows some restraint. Unfortunately, all of these little moments of quality get dog-piled by the melodrama, swelling music, and dull characterization.

    What Hunger Games desperately needed was a multifaceted approach. Katniss shouldn’t have been the main character in Catching Fire or Mockingjay, because for all intents and purposes she isn’t. Her arc stopped after she threatened suicide with the berries and after that she was just too distant from the real action. The point of view should have shifted to people in the districts who could provide a much closer look at the revolution.

    But, then, I suppose that would have ended up cringe-worthy as well. Collins isn’t particularly good at psychology. Katniss lives in a different world but her morals are indistinguishable from modern-day western mores. If she had shifted the POV to someone in the districts we probably would have gotten someone who rants against the dirty rich people taking all his guns and insists that if the Capitol ever comes knocking at his door he’d go out like a hero, which admittedly would be amusing.

    It’s just a failed book-though it’s one of the more respectable ideas-and I can’t stand that when people talk about the series they think of it as some kind of love story or a series of feminist action book (it’s debatable whether or not the series is even feministic http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2012/04/whats_wrong_with_the_hunger_ga_1.html) and not as the war drama it’s meant to be.

    Reply
    1. ronanwills Post author

      I have often thought myself that the love triangle feels like something that was forced into the books to capitalize on the post-Twilight trend, particularly given how little Gale actually features in the first two books.

      The idea of switching protagonists after the first book is an interesting one. I always thought it was a shame that we never got to see Katniss as a mentor, so it would have been cool if the second book followed another kid picked for the Games who was being trained by her, and then the rebellion decided to crash the party after being inspired by Katniss’ earlier act of defiance.

      Reply

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