Yes, I know it’s a confusing title.
It’s time to finish our Hunger Games movie-stravaganza by watching the fourth instalment in the trilogy: Mockinjay, Part We Split This Story In Half To Make More Money So Here’s The Bits With All The Action.
I actually had quite a bit of trouble remembering what happened in the previous movie. There was some kind of mission to go somewhere, Katniss’ boyfriend was rescued but he’s brainwashed and wants to kill her, and she spent a lot of time sitting around doing nothing despite ostensibly being the main character. Everyone up to speed? Okay, let’s dive right in.
The movie picks up more or less right where Part 1 concluded (almost like they were arbitrarily split in half or something), with Katniss recovering from being choked almost to death by Peeta. Her injuries are surprisingly graphic and depicted in an unflinchingly realistic way– the part where she tries to speak using her damaged vocal cords is actually kind of disturbing– which is a bit odd in a movie whose source material has such a large tween following (I’ve heard that there was a bit of a kerfuffle over this when the movie was initially released, as many people thought that it should have gotten a higher rating).
The District 13 doctors aren’t making good progress on the whole “getting Peeta to not be brainwashed” thing, so they decide to send in someone he knows and trusts to see if they can reach him.
Yeah, this will go well.
Prim waltzes straight over to Peeta’s bed (he’s restrained, but still) and announces that his family was killed in the destruction of District 12. He responds by blaming Katniss for everything and insisting that she has to die. In the books (and maybe it’s going to turn out that way here too) the Capital uses magic wasp venom or whatever to program Peeta to kill Katniss on sight, whereas his attitude here seems more like the kind of indoctrination that can come about through extended imprisonment and torture.
Katniss asks to be sent to District 2 (the current frontline) to help rally the troops. Surprisingly– because usually nothing happens in these movies without a lot of farting about and wasting time– President Coin readily agrees.
I forgot all about this guy.
Katniss walks in on Gale and the genius guy from the second movie planning bombing techniques, including the classic (and unfortunately all too real) strategy of a two tiered explosion: using a smaller bomb first and then detonating the larger one when rescuers come to help. I guess the resistance is just doing straight-up terrorist attacks on the Capital now?
I could swear this exact same location was in the previous movie. I also can’t help but notice that the Districts seem to have gone from unique locations with a 1930s rural Americana vibe to an endless sprawl of identical bombed-out buildings.
Hey look it’s Gwendoline “Brienne of Tarth” Christie!
The rebels are trying to take a big underground fortress with a bunch of weapons in it, but they’re having trouble because it’s too big and too underground. The cool rebel general lady from the previous movie is all like “maybe throwing our troops away just for some guns is a bad idea” and Coin is like “just get the Mockingjay to do her thing, it’ll totes sway the loyalists to our side” and everyone else is like “that’s stupid.”
For some reason they keep saying they need to take District 2 because otherwise they “can’t get in” to the Capital. Why, does District 2 surround it? Is there only one entrance or something?
Gale comes up with the idea of triggering avalanches to bury the fortress, which That Soldier Guy Whose Name I Can’t Remember balks at since there are civilians inside who should be given a chance to surrender, and Katniss is all shocked and stuff. I agree that the rebels are starting to act in a distinctly iffy manner, but I’m not entirely sure why she’s so surprised all of a sudden; surely this can’t be the first time she’s realizing that the war is going to kill a lot of innocent people.
Anyway Coin agrees on a compromise, whereby they’ll do the avalanche thing but keep one of the tunnels out of the fortress open so civilians can evacuate. They keep harping on about needing to make them surrender (this is where Katniss comes in) but if they’re civilians and presumably unarmed, why is this an issue?
THIS MOVIE IS VERY DARK AND GLOOMY AND SERIOUS
Gale talks about how he’s totally fine with killing civilians, because he’s a big cranky-pants.
The plan predictably goes pear-shaped when Katniss ends up being held at gunpoint by one of the survivors (her bodyguards are doing a really bad job at keeping her safe). They have a long-winded argument about how the Capital is the real enemy, the guy lets her go, Katniss gets to make a big speech, and then one of the other survivors pulls a gun and shoots her. Whoops!
This situation feels totally contrived. The rebels have Katniss make her broadcast right in the middle of this extremely chaotic situation, she runs toward an armed dude who won’t drop his weapon just because he’s hurt, then her bodyguards stand there silently while she’s in mortal peril and don’t lift a finger to get her out of the area.
Meanwhile, President Snow watches the footage of all of this (the rebels have got to stop sending this shit out live) and surmises that Katniss is still alive since if she died the rebels would already be using her as a martyr. He announces a totally batshit plan to let the rebels into the outer fringes of the Capital and then have the Game-makers spring a load of weird traps on them, because that seems like a totally sensible plan.
In general, the depiction of military tactics in this story seems totally unrealistic. For example, Snow blithely asserts that they’ll concentrate their anti-air forces so the rebels will have no air support… but if that’s the case, why on Earth would the rebels ever set foot inside the Capital? They’d surround it and go for a siege, or attack with long range munitions, or focus on chipping away at the Capital’s anti-air defences first.
Oh and Snow poisons one of his military uinderlings, because he’s Evil.
Look, it’s… this character!
Wait now I remember, she’s your one from the second movie who, like… did something. I think. I’m fairly certain she did something important. And she was sarcastic.
Anyway she sasses at Katniss for a while and starts examining the family photos at her bedside.
If they have super-advanced holographic projectors in this setting, why are all the photos in black and white? This is so illogical, I’m going to dig into it in greater detail. There are only three explanations:
- Modern technology is too expensive, so the people in the Districts have to use way older cameras: Doesn’t make any sense, since using antique photographic equipment that’s difficult to repair and acquire replacement parts for would be massively more expensive than buying cheap, mass-produced versions of the more advanced stuff. Also, we saw the hologram projectors all over the place in District 12, including in Katniss’ house, so cost can’t be the issue.
- The Districts are using the same cameras as the Capital, except they only take black and white photos for some reason: Makes even less sense than the previous suggestion.
- The Capital produces and sells old-timey black and white cameras to the Districts for the lulz: As absurd as this is, it’s the only explanation that fits the observed facts. And why not, when everything else the Capital does seems to boil down to oppressing the Districts for fun?
Okay, I know why the photos are actually black and white– to fit in with the American Dustbowl aesthetic of District 12– but that creative choice becomes increasingly illogical the more we see of the setting. The only way any of this could make sense is if the Capital was an Industrial Revolution-era esque city instead of FUTURISTIC CYBER LAND.
Katniss is sent in to talk to Peeta again. I say “sent in” because she’s insists that she’s too frightened and doesn’t want to, but Haymitch forces her to do it because “it’s for Peeta.” What a dick. And since when did anyone in District 13 care that much about Peeta? At the end of the previous movie they had only barely come around to not executing him as an enemy collaborator; I was assuming the only reason they didn’t rescind that decision immediately after discovering he’d been brainwashed is because they knew Katniss would flip her lid about it.
Anyway, the meeting goes slightly better than last time, in that watching Katniss get shot somehow caused Peeta to remember the good old days back in District 12 when Katniss was starving to death and he gave her some bread to save her life. But he’s still a big asshole and Katniss is all “oh no.”
Some time later, Katniss meets with President Coin and once again requests to be sent to the Capital to join the troops on the front lines. Coin makes the (entirely reasonable) argument that she’s too valuable to lose, so they’ll keep her in District 13 until the war is over. I think we’re meant to view this as stifling and vaguely sinister, but I’m with Coin on this one. It doesn’t help that Katniss seems to be motivated mostly by selfish personal desires, first insisting that the rebels undertake a dangerous commando raid to rescue her boyfriend, and now trying to throw herself into the meat grinder to satisfy her vendetta against Snow. Her constant refusal to acknowledge that she’s part of events that are far larger than her and her personal desires is very off-putting.
Finnick (also forgot about him until just now) marries what’s her face who was rescued during the commando raid. What is the dude conducting the ceremony holding? It looks like either a magazine or a very thin taco.
After the ceremony there’s a big hoe-down with lots of music and high spirits, and Katniss dances with Prim, which is all adorable and shit (GUYS I SURE HOPE NOTHING HAPPENS TO PRIM AM I RIGHT). And she talks to Angry Lady again about how, like, she has to kill Snow because nothing good is safe as long as he’s alive.
Here’s a question the story doesn’t seem to want to answer: why Snow, and not, say, the people running the hunger games, or the commander of the Capital army, or the District governors, or whoever sets the Capital’s domestic policies? Snow didn’t invent any of this shit. The Capital was brutally oppressing the Districts before he was born, and they’d continue doing it if he died. He’s not directly responsible for any of it, and his moral culpability is no greater than any other high-ranking official who inherited the unjust system and chose to continue it. The problem is the Capital government as a whole and its culture, not any one individual.
Stories of rebellion often pull this trick, where the oppressive regime is controlled and run by a single evil individual whose death causes the entire thing to immediately collapse. That’s probably because thinking about oppressive systems in terms of broad societal structures shepherded by a wide swathe of people leads to uncomfortable questions about how far down the blame should be distributed– it’s much more comforting to pin everything on a dictator at the top of the ladder.
Katniss’ insistence on taking out Snow is all the more baffling because the guy’s days are quite obviously numbered. The Capital is surrounded and under siege. It’s only a matter of time before they lose, and Snow is killed in the fighting or executed by the victorious rebels. But that’s not good enough– Katniss wants revenge, so she has to do it, even if it means throwing her life away.
The upshot of this conversation is that Katniss and Angry Lady hatch a plan for Katniss to sneak off to the front lines and assassinate Snow. Since we’re only half an hour into this thing and the movie is two hours long, I fear what the pacing on this mission will be like.
Katniss manages to casually pootle her way onboard a military transport ship with ease despite making no attempt at concealing her signature weapon, and then it’s off to the Capital!
Of course, people recognize her the second she lands, but this works in her favour because everyone is inspired as shit and Coin realizes that she’s more valuable on the frontlines. Later, Katniss and Gale listen to Cool Rebel Lady lay out the battle plan for the upcoming invasion, where it’s once again emphasized that killing Snow is for some reason the key step in taking down the regime.
Katniss is put into an “on-screen” squad designated to follow behind the frontline and shoot propaganda to try and get the Capital soldiers to surrender. This seems like a perfectly sensible plan, but Katniss and her buddies once again act as if it’s some sort of tyrannical imposition on their freedom.
The outskirts of the Capital have a bit of a Soviet aesthetic going on, which doesn’t really fit with the Capital’s usual decadence and conspicuous consumption theme.
Katniss and co trigger one of the booby-trapped
podspogs (flamethrowers, in this case) and Katniss and Finnick plot to get away from the main squad and go assassinate Snow instead of just letting the rest of the army do it. Then a military jeep arrives with a fully kitted-out Peeta, who seems to just barely be resisting the Capital conditioning. For some reason, the higher-ups have decided to add him to the propaganda team. Rebel Leader Guy speculates that Coin is starting to get jittery about the elections that will be held when the Capital falls, and is trying to eliminate Katniss as a potential rival.
…So wait, when did Coin turn evil? She was a bit cold and ruthless before, but now her own soldiers are talking about her as if she’s some despot in the making.
Also, why is she promising everyone democracy? Panem has been a dictatorship for about 100 years at the absolute least, and that was preceded by an unknown period of strife and warfare. District 13 seems to be controlled by a military junta headed by Coin. It would make sense that the liberator of a recently-conquered USA would need to hold elections, because the people would demand a return to the form of government they had lived under previously and been familiar with. But none of these people have ever experienced democracy. An election would at best be a vague historical concept. A new, more benign president-for-life coming to power after Snow’s fall would make complete sense as their vision of freedom.
God this movie is so gloomy and dour. It makes the first one– which, remember, was about children being forced to murder each other– look like a fun adventure romp.
Katniss and Peeta have more bonding time and he starts opening up and regaining a bit of his identity, but since I don’t care about either of them or their relationship it’s a whole lot of whatever.
Maybe the Capital would be better at defending this place if they used soldiers instead of wacky videogame traps.
Then the Rebel General Guy gets his legs blown off and dies, whoops. He transfers command to Katniss because she’s super cool. But then another trap goes off, and the place they’re in starts filling with, like, black goo and when you fall into it wires come out and tear you apart? Or something? Anyway while they’re running away Peeta tries to murder Katniss again, which I’m sure will be great for the squad’s moral.
The second in command lady decides that they should retreat back to base and demands that Katniss hand over the hologram thingy showing where all the pogs are, but Katniss refuses and claims that she’s on a special mission to assassinate Snow.
Am I supposed to hate Katniss? Because I’m really starting to hate her. Snow is going to die one or another, why is she risking the lives of everyone in her squad just to satisfy her blood-lust? This would make a lot more sense if the Capital was still all-powerful, but they’re clearly doomed.
Anyway the squad holes up in a swank apartment and the Capital broadcasts an announcement rather hastily claiming that Katniss and her allies were killed after escaping the trap. Would it have killed them to take five minutes to look for a body first?
But then Coin interrupts the broadcast and is like “yo Katniss was a totally awesome rebel lady and also I’m awesome so vote Coin in the next election.”
Apparently it’s now time to humanize Snow, after three and a half movies portraying him as basically Mega Hitler. We get a quick cut to him being informed that Katniss is less dead than previously advertised, and he’s all tired and old and shit. It’s almost like the movie is paving the way for someone else to take the top villain spot…
We’ll leave it there for now. Part 2 will come some time next week. Until then, enjoy this hilarious gun dancing video that got released as part of the movie’s marketing campaign.