Before we reconnect with Katniss and her buddies in District 13, some programming notes.
During my last update post I said I was going to do a Let’s Watch of the second Divergent movie; I still want to do that, but it won’t be any time soon, as these Hunger Games posts took up a lot more time and energy than I had planned. Instead we’re going to be moving straight onto the previously announced new Let’s Read format. I’ve got the first book picked out and everything! It’s something that’s been requested frequently.
You may have noticed that Spooktober has been very thin on the ground this year; I honestly feel bad about this, as I greatly enjoy writing about horror stuff, but unfortunately my entry into a master’s degree program in September means that I’m swamped with course work at the moment. There are still some recent-ish horror movies I really want to watch and write about, so maybe I’ll do that before the end of the year instead. After all, the true spirit of Spooktober lives inside our hearts.
To say something positive about these movies for once: while the main cast is mostly as white as a bag of cotton balls, they’ve gone out of their way to make the smaller roles very diverse in terms of race. For example, all of the people Katniss speaks to in the hospital (including Cool Rebel Leader, pictured) are black and when we see groups of people like Snow’s staff, District citizens gathering to watch public events or the Game operators there’s often noticeably a lot of POC.
Now, this is obviously not some kind of enlightened diversity revolution– we are after all mostly talking about non-speaking extras and small bit parts– but it’s a low hurdle that a lot of movies don’t manage to pass, so it stood out to me. For all the unrealistic and fantastical elements, it makes the world that the story takes place in feel more real and authentic.
(Oh, and apparently in the book Cool Rebel Leader becomes the leader of the post-rebellion Panem, so that’s cool)
Snow’s bombers come and blow up the field hospital, which leads to quite possible the stupidest scene in the entire franchise. Before their departure Tech Bro gave Katniss and Asshole a bow and crossbow (has he even used one of those before?) with explosive arrows; this was mainly for theatricality, but he made them fully functional because reasons.
Well, here we see them actually manage to shoot down two very fast moving bombers (or rather Katniss shoots one of them and it crashes into the other). I know she’s supposed to be good, but this seems like it would require near-superhuman aiming abilities. I
n this one short action scene these two characters cease being ordinary people and become superheroes capable of pulling off seemingly impossible feats of skill and bravery. It’s especially ridiculous when contrasted against the relatively realistic and gritty war movie tone this part of the film had been employing until now.
Katniss goes to the burning ruins of what used to the hospital and gets to speechify in a totally hella inspiring way. In the next scene we see everyone in District 13 watching the recording and there’s a bizarrely meta bit where the TV screens show the scene of Katniss shooting down the bombers– as in the exact same scene, using the same camera angles, even though no one was recording it– which then segues into the text “join the Mockingjay” in the same font used for the movies’ titles, against the flaming Mockingjay logo from the start of the film, with the music used at the end of all the Hunger Games trailers playing. I guess it’s kind of amusing, but it’s also an odd piece of fourth wall breaking that feels out of place.
Security in the Districts that haven’t openly rebelled has been ramped up hugely, to the point where they’re starting to seem like gigantic forced labour camps more than actual communities.
How much is it costing the Capital to maintain this level of domination? Wouldn’t they reach a point where they’re spending so much on soldiers and equipment that they’re losing money on the Districts’ labour? I remember reading a while ago about how much manpower and resources the Nazis devoted to keeping the concentration camps going at a time when they really needed it for the eastern front; some historians believe this may have contributed greatly to their defeat. It seems like just letting the rebels have the Districts and opening their own Capital-run industrial operations would eventually be the more feasible choice.
Anyway one of the workers gives a signal and they all dash up trees Rue-style before activating the bombs that were apparently buried below earlier, with the result that all the Peacekeepers get blown to pieces.
Okay, but what happened after that? Aren’t the explosions followed by the security teams going silent going to draw huge and immediate reinforcements? Are the workers planning on running off and hiding?
Katniss and Asshole go and hunt above ground, but when Katniss locates a majestic stag she’s unable to bring herself to kill it. For all the other flaws, I do like how we see Katniss being affected by the things she’s seen and done. It’s also interesting how the beginning of both the books and movies contrasted Katniss with her sister Prim, with Katniss being the strong-willed hunter and Prim too sentimental to ever kill anything; now Katniss is starting to resemble Prim more, but it’s bitter experience rather than innocence that makes her that way.
Maybe it’s just the dramatic music playing, but I really like this scene. It communicates a sense of loss very powerfully, as we realise that Katniss isn’t the same person she was at the beginning of the story and never will be again.
Nope, still not buying the love triangle thing.
SERIOUSLY WHY ARE THEY SHOWING THIS IN THE CAFETERIA
OHD continues to entreat Katniss to end the rebellion and Asshole acts like an asshole some more. They respond by showing the Capital (and more specifically OHD) what happened to District 12. Asshole narrates for a while about the carnage and destruction, blah blah blah. This feels like wheel-spinning, we already got a sense of what happened earlier. Then they go back to Katniss’ house again and Asshole acts like a gigantic jealous douchebag.
Man fuck this guy all the way to the moon and back.
We now come to easily the most famous scene in the movie: Katniss and her documentarians are chilling by a scenic lake and she starts singing a chart-topping song at their request. They film this and after some digital tweaking by Plutarch it’s broadcast to all of the Districts.
The scene then cuts to a small army of rebels singing the song as they launch a daring attack to plant some bombs at a hydro-electric plant. It’s undeniably stirring, but it also makes no sense. Given how important this thing apparently is (the entire Capital loses electricity as soon as its taken out) you’d think it would have some major defence, but a relatively small horde of unarmed people manage to just charge their way through and overwhelm the guards by sheer numbers. The doors into the plant don’t even seem to be locked.
Tech Bro uses Hacking to splice Katniss’ song into one of the Capital’s OHDcasts. Like all broadcast hijacking in movies, this results in a lot of aesthetically pleasing static and images intercutting in dramatic ways (if you want to see what this actually looks like, go track down footage of the infamous Max Headroom hijack).
I’m not sure why the Capital is still trying this bullshit, since it’s clearly not working. The rebellion has now sailed far past the point where shutting Katniss up would slow it down, and it’s obvious to anyone watching that OHD is being tortured or brainwashed in some way since he looks like death.
OHD sees the images of Katniss (somehow) and it starts to throw him off the pre-prepared spiel he’s being fed. Eventually he blurts out that a major counter-attack against District 13 is coming and is dragged off-camera just before the feed cuts out.
The District 13 compound goes into red alert and everyone descends into
Terminal Dogma the bomb shelters.
I actually do kind of wonder if District 13’s design was inspired by NERV from Neon Genesis Evangelion, as the command room and this scene in particular is very reminiscent of the Geofront during an Angel attack.
(I’m aware that like three quarters of you probably don’t watch anime and have no idea what the fuck I’m talking about, but that’s just how I roll)
Last time I wrote about the implausibility of District 13 remaining hidden and suggested that a cold war scenario would have worked better; well, I checked the wiki and apparently in the book something similar is actually the case: District 13 was never actually destroyed, it just signed a non-aggression pact with the Capital after a nuclear stand-off, whereby the two parties agreed to leave each other alone and not interfere in each other’s business.
The Capital hits District 13 with bombers, but they can’t break through. Coin tells her military personnel to arm “long range missiles” for a counter-attack.
For some reason this hasn’t been stated explicitly yet, but in the book the Capital has nuclear weapons and we’re told that District 13 was obliterated explicitly because they also had them, or at least the potential means to create them. I assume by “counter attack” Coin is talking about using them (it would explain why Plutarch gets this “shit just got serious” look on his face) but again, the movie is being coy about it.
As soon as the bombs hit sprinklers go off all over the place. I don’t think a lot of people realise this, but that’s not how fire suppression systems work. They’re isolated and activate locally; the entire system doesn’t go off at once. If it did office buildings and hospitals would face catastrophic water damage every time someone burned a piece of toast. Having the “oh shit fire” system turn on at the drop of a hat is also a great way to cause panic, as we see here when Katniss is almost crushed to death.
There’s a brief bit of drama where Prim almost gets locked out of the bomb shelter and her and Katniss have to race to get there in time. I guess the idea is that they’ll be in more danger if they’re not inside, but on the other hand if things get that bad they’re probably screwed anyway.
There’s some cool military strategising here as Coin realises that the Capital forces don’t know where any of District 13’s military assets are and are relying on them firing back to reveal themselves, so she orders all of their forces to stand down and wait out the assault.
This President Coin lady is pretty cool, I hope she doesn’t arbitrarily turn out to be evil later.
I gotta say, as much as I think the series as a whole was ill-served by transitioning into this epic war story, I’m enjoying all of this way more than the stuff with the hunger games.
Aaaaand then there’s this goofy-ass thing where they go outside and the ground is covered in white roses (President Snow’s scary effeminate calling card).
Okay, story? You’re got to get away from this idea that Snow is this terrifying villain. He’s just an old dude who looks like the KFC mascot.
Why exactly do the bombers stop, anyway? They’re running completely unopposed, why not just keep making runs until District 13 is nothing but a smoking crater? If that’s for some reason infeasible, why not send soldiers in to clear the place out on foot? Or at the very least set up a cordon to stop a counter-attack? The Capital just bombs the place for a few hours, then when that doesn’t work they give up.
Unfortunately the roses cause Katniss to have a breakdown as she thinks that Snow is going to kill OHD and everyone she loves. But Woodie Harrelson manages to snap her out of it by telling her that a rescue attempt on OHD is going ahead, so go Katniss.
Next time: Asshole McGee embarks on a daring rescue mission! Gosh I’m so excited.