So here we are at the end of the Hunger Games films, and not a single one made any sense. But this one had a cat-human hybrid in it, thus punching the nonsense factor up to 11.
At its heart, what is the Hunger Games series about? A young woman, through happenstance and luck, ends up the face of a revolution. At no point does she express any agency: her body, her actions, and her emotions are used by shadowy other figures to further this or that agenda. At the heart of the series is the helplessness of this woman who is never allowed to achieve her goals. From beginning to end, this is a story about how the world acts upon her and not the other way around.
And there’s a certain realism about that. Especially in the world of the global media, people who had utterly no say in the matter become the symbols of mass social movements. The striking picture of Sharbat Gula didn’t result in her liberation, freedom, or empowerment, but it made the photographer, Steven McCurry, extremely famous. Dead bodies are the most emblematic of this phenomenon: it’s not who they were that matters to the rest of the world, only that they are dead.
But I don’t think the movies intended to show her persistent helplessness. I see posts of people celebrating strong, female heroes and they list Katniss. Something about the constant use of the entirely impractical weapon seems to convey the image of strength, persistence, and control, even though she expresses none. It seems almost like a Hollywood trick: here, in a world where people are increasingly controlled by mysterious, irrational forces beyond their control, be satisfied with the idea of exerting control even if that idea is fanciful.
My problem with the series is that the entire story world is broken. President Snow is going to be toppled regardless of what Katniss does. The structure of his power relies entirely upon him, and he is sick and he is dying. His advisers are gormless, many of them are incompetent. This is not an empire that will last 10,000 years.
Even then, his strategic errors are beyond excusable. He sends a bunch of children into an arena to kill each other. Big mistake. What he should do instead is make it an elite game where people don’t have to kill each other, but they can compete in order to lift themselves out of the poverty of living in the Districts. ‘People of Panem,’ he would say, ‘We have brought about peace through a well-organised, well-maintained, well-reasoned economic machine. One day, we will live in a world without work. Until that day, we shall toil so that the people in each District can have food in their bellies and songs in their hearts. But we need a program of sustained upwards mobility. It is unjust that the child born in one District cannot aspire to live in another, or even in the Capitol. For that reason, we have instituted The Games. The best and brightest from each District can compete for the opportunity to move out of their District….’
That is, fundamentally, the bizarre game at the heart of our political system. We have serious people argue that the free market is the best way of lifting the impoverished child out of the socio-political context of their poverty and into a new world of shiny suits and white shirts. The number of people who do this is statistically negligible; potentially smaller than the number of Victors in The Hunger Games.
The heart of oppression is convincing everybody to participate in their own oppression. If you force a bunch of children to murder each other, if you send in stormtroopers to whip people in the town square, if you declare war on an individual woman, then you remind the people that they should stop oppressing themselves and should instead think about removing you.
So Katniss decides to assassinate President Snow. It’s very dramatic. Snow has decided to evacuate part of the Capitol so that Katniss and the other rebels will enter and find it booby trapped. Unfortunately, the surveillance cameras that are operated by magic angel babies and somehow film things that they couldn’t possibly film work inconsistently, so he has motion-detectors to set off the booby traps, and no idea where the rebels have gone after they’ve set off the booby traps. And the booby traps don’t work effectively, so Snow needs to send in stormtroopers to bazooka the place anyway.
Oh, and the Capitol is full of tunnels without any booby traps. That’s kind of a major flaw when you design booby trap scheme. A mousetrap with an escape tunnel that you don’t guard is not an effective mousetrap. Also, don’t do booby traps. If you have to put down several hundred booby traps, you’re conceding that most of them will not be needed. Find a more effective way of battling your enemies.
Anyway, and then this woman who decided to cosmetically alter herself to look like a cat appears and the rest of the film is crazy nonsense.
Perhaps the craziest of this nonsense is the idea that literally nobody seems to know how government will work after the revolution. District 13 governed as a military state, but President Coin was, ultimately, a president. One imagines that there was some kind of election which legitimised her rule. So when District 13 conquers the Capitol, they all look at each other and ask: ‘Oh, hey. What’s supposed to happen now? We’ve had decades to think this through but we completely forgot to think through how we would govern after the glorious revolution.’
So President Coin decides — fairly rationally — that she’s going to be the Interim President until elections are held. But Drunky Mc Woody Harrelson thinks that sounds a little bit evil. And then the Interim President decides that she has a bunch of executive powers which, to the untrained ear, seem a bit extreme. But literally nobody calls her out on this shit. It’s like an entire revolution happened without any ideological framework beyond: ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we stopped the Hunger Games?’ Even spontaneous revolutions have more of an idea of what’s going to happen when they win power.
And we should remember that President Coin is the one who decided that her legitimacy depended upon a rigid and strict ‘rule of law’ approach when it came to rescuing the Victors. No trials, full pardons. But when she gets the fancy office, suddenly it’s extra judicial killings for all.
The real villain of the series is clearly Plutarch, the advertising guru. He’s the man who suggested to Snow that he should get all murdertastic on the Victors… but he was totally doing that just to propel the revolution. And so he works for President Coin about how to rule over District 13 unopposed, finding ways to spin propaganda. And she goes full murdertastic on everybody. And, at the end, he’s the one smiling next to the new President.
He is evil. And he deserved to be shot with an arrow.
This is a bad film. Don’t go see it.