The Hunger Games (2012)
October 30, 2014 6:51 AM - Subscribe

The first installment in The Hunger Games film series, directed by Gary Ross and based on the novel of the same name by Suzanne Collins. It stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland.
posted by Pendragon (45 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I didn't expect much from this movie, but I really liked it. Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss with the right kind of standoffish attitude.
posted by Pendragon at 7:07 AM on October 30, 2014

The director is the same guy who wrote and directed Pleasantville, which I think is why this movie has such striking visuals and compositions - something the more action-standby sequel lacks.
posted by The Whelk at 7:47 AM on October 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also Sutherland, as was his want, completely changed Snow's character by writing the director a letter explaining what a guy like this would act like and what his motivation should be - leading directly to filming the rose garden scene after I think most of principal filming was completed.

According to gossip, the shoot was a fairly racous party scene.
posted by The Whelk at 7:49 AM on October 30, 2014

This was good as a standalone movie, but it did a terrible job as the opener of a series. Too many plotlines had to (understandably) be cut that would fuel the rest of the series, which caused problems for the second movie (and likely the last two). It's a difficult balance - putting too much of that stuff in might have made the movie less successful and killed any sequel chances, but not putting enough means the later ones have to do a lot of extra lifting.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 8:12 AM on October 30, 2014

Yeah the second movie really has to play catch-up with the world-building and set-up which makes a lot of stuff seems oddly perfunctory

About the visuals, like I forgot how much of this movie is spent straight inside Katniss' head - her memories and flashbacks are like these invading nightmares and the camera is often like right over her shoulder and the sense that the camera is her watching herself (as we the viewer watch as the audience for the games watches, etc).

It's really rather intense in a way the second movie isn't.
posted by The Whelk at 8:22 AM on October 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

The best part of this film is the way it walks the line between being an exciting adventure film about Katniss winning against the odds vs. the horror of a society that forces children to kill each other for entertainment and political subjugation. The novel has that tension too, but being in written form by a (then) not-well-known author it wasn't too complicated, the author just did this. But this is an action movie, and this is America where we love our gladiator combat, so making the film appeal to folks wanting to eat popcorn and watch some fun action while saying more than that was pretty challenging. Jennifer Lawrence did great with the role.

The other complex thing in the books is the total trainwreck of Katniss' emotional life, her awful position and inability to have a normal teenager romantic life because of the circumstances. They sort of got that in this first film, but not entirely. I'm very curious how this will work in the final films; in the book she's completely gutted.
posted by Nelson at 8:53 AM on October 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Jennifer Lawrence's acting just before she goes up into the arena is absolutely stunning. Her fear is palpable and really cemented for me the fact that she is one hell of an actress.
posted by cooker girl at 12:20 PM on October 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

One fun bit of trivia: among her other writing credits, Collins wrote for the preschool education series Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!. Seeing her name come on screen while watching that show with my five year old was a little unusual.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 12:54 PM on October 30, 2014

Lawrence's acting is I think one of the main things that helps you take the movie seriously. When the adaptation was first announced, I was worried it would be camp or that it would be a facile sort of action flick that didn't engage with the novel's critiques of violence and violence-as-entertainment. But the unflinching portrayal of Katniss's fear and horror at what she and her peers are forced to do is a big part of what saves the movie from making the audience feel complicit in the violence in a bad way. I don't know if I'm explaining it right, but I was worried the movie would miss the point entirely when it came to its treatment of violence and end up just being 2 hours of Action Movie, Strong Female Character Katniss.

I was so grateful that we instead got that tremendous scene just before she enters the arena where you can see her shaking in fear. Lawrence's performance grounds the whole (admittedly kind of ridiculous premise) in reality. We see her terrified, we see her begging Gale to make sure her family doesn't starve without her, we see her shattering grief at Rue's death. Her warmth with Prim, a warmth we don't see her show anyone else other than Rue, also really deepened the character for me, because it didn't come across as well on the page. I think we would have ended up with a much lesser movie if Katniss was played by a less talented actress.

Also, I loved a bunch of small moments in the movie that again, grounded everything in an emotional reality that the over the top premise really needed.The ones I can think of off the top of my head:

Katniss telling Prim to tuck in her shirt, and the later echo in Prim's automatically tucking it in as she walked up to the stage during the reaping was pretty emotionally manipulative, but goddamn it worked.

Everything about Cinna and Katniss's relationship. Cinna is basically the one adult in the whole movie who shows genuine kindness to Katniss, and who affirms to her that the Hunger Games are wrong and that she shouldn't have to do this. Their moment together before she went out to the arena was wrenching and perfect.

At the end, when Peeta and Katniss are seemingly about to eat the nightberries, Peeta reaches out to touch Katniss's braid. It was such a heartbreakingly tender and unaffected little gesture, like he just wanted to touch her hair one last time before they died. That hit me pretty hard.
posted by yasaman at 1:30 PM on October 30, 2014 [9 favorites]

Jennifer Lawrence's acting just before she goes up into the arena is absolutely stunning. Her fear is palpable and really cemented for me the fact that she is one hell of an actress.

Oh my goodness yes. I can't even get into how much I love this movie (rather more than the books; I don't think Collins did a very good job at capturing teenage ambiguity) even despite the outlandish premise (tl;dr version, there is no way in hell the economics of Panem work unless they have Trek style replicators; there's also no way in hell children in that society wouldn't be brought up without at least basic knowledge of wilderness survival and combat skills. Yes, the richer Districts train Careers, but imagine if the Olympic Games in our society were entered into by lottery; enormous chunks of our daily lives would be devoted to sport for the benefit that in the movies/books accrues to the winner and their District).

To be fair, I saw the movie before I read the books (and hadn't yet seen Winter's Bone), and honestly kind of expected a bunch of gratuitous blood and violence, and who cares? It's a movie and I just had a joint and snacks are in the kitchen thank you video on demand. But that scene--what is it, maybe forty five seconds of her trying not to gibber with fear?--totally nailed it into "holy shit this is actually kind of a serious thing" for me.

At the end, when Peeta and Katniss are seemingly about to eat the nightberries, Peeta reaches out to touch Katniss's braid.

I totally, totally lost it there. That was, for me, the bookend to Katniss' pre-Arena scene: the Hollywood trope was subverted. You'd usually expect The Big Kiss or something similar (that being said, The Big Kiss there would still have fit in with everyone's motivations) to happen at that point. Instead? This tiny, helpless gesture that speaks to actual love and affection, not teenage hormones.

As for Cinna... while it's true that he's the only one from the Capitol who really shows an overt caring for Katniss (Heywood is too damaged to truly show closeness, I think, and Effie hasn't yet had the scales torn from her eyes), I don't think that absolves his character. Everyone--except perhaps Gale--in the movie uses Katniss for something.

- Snow (and the rest of the Capitol machine, including Effie) to perpetuate the status quo, and in the case of the stylists, to perpetuate and/or advance their careers;
- Heywood and Cinna (and others yet to come) to fight against the status quo (and secondarily in Cinna's case for the fame);
- Flickerman, who is kind of ambiguous, and let me fall into a reverie for a moment at the utter genius of casting Tucci in that role. It seems to me like he knows how horrific the whole thing is, but at the end of the day he's a mercenary and has possibly the second most powerful position in all Panem and likes it. (Yes, ok, Seneca Crane as the Gamesmaster is incredibly powerful too, but not apparently as public, and is much more of a tool, ahem, than Flickerman is.)
- Her mother, so she can abdicate her own responsibility to Prim;
- Rue, for protection (along with Prim, the only person Katniss truly consents to be used by);
- Prim, likewise;
- Peeta, for his own emotional needs (which, ok, to a point he subsumes into hers);

I'm not so sure that I agree the second through fourth movies have been left with much narrative debt from the first film. To me, the film did what I really like in a lot of speculative fiction: drops us into the world from the POV of the characters--not so much explaining because to them, this is just how the world is. After reading the books, I felt that the first movie did a good job of paring down to the essentials of the story, including a nicely subtle indication of Katniss' ambiguity about the two boys who are obviously besotted with her. The second movie did a good job too in that regard, and I'm kind of apprehensive about 3&4--I don't really see how they're able to spin that into two feature-length movies. One 2.5-3hr movie would suffice, but ticket sales I guess.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:20 PM on October 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

The thing I like about the first book and the first movie is the ambiguity about Katniss' feelings about both of the boys/men in her life. She doesn't have romantic feelings for Gale before she leaves, even though they may be starting to show up. She had no thoughts about Peeta at all before The Games, but is forced into a "marriage" of sorts in the arena.

At the end of the first movie/first book, she's without choice, and isn't really inclined (as a character) to choose either one, because circumstances have forced her into this false choice. Things change in latter episodes, but I really liked that. Usually we get female characters who put love first and everything else revolves around that.
posted by xingcat at 3:56 PM on October 30, 2014

I like the movie adaptation, but it has always pissed me off that they never explained why they're (colloquially, not officially) called The Hunger Games. It just makes it sort of hard to understand why the districts put up with it. Beneath the "this is horrific" is an undercurrent of "well, but our district might win, and that will make the next year of our lives slightly more bearable." I've always felt that bit of lottery-winning mentality and selfishness was important to the psyche of the districts and why they suffer the Capital.
posted by olinerd at 7:03 PM on October 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah the fact the games and lottery mean food and supplements to the wining distinct is kind of hinted out but not really dramatized, like you can infer that Distinct 12 is so poor partly cause it hasn't had a winner in years (and it hasn't had a winner in years cause poor, cycle of poverty) but it's not as overt as it is the book (which I always thought made the rich districts seem more barbarically pragmatical, they know they rely on wins to keep going so they pretty much have a pool of kids they're willing to put a bunch of resources into and LET DIE just to keep everything going)
posted by The Whelk at 7:06 PM on October 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's made explicit in the second film. The way I tend to approach (planned, not 'let's make another sequel') trilogies is as a single movie with very long intermissions, so I see that as part of the normal narrative structure. YMMV.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:38 PM on October 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think, with the second movie, I missed being inside Katniss' head. The direction of this movie was so much more ingrained and around her, flashbacks and cuts, it was really nervy and jangly and while in the second movie we totally get the idea that the games are bad and terrible, the first movie played it more like a horror movie almost in that just being near the games as bone shakingly bad.
posted by The Whelk at 8:10 PM on October 30, 2014

Yeah I noticed that too, but I think it's a reasonable directorial choice. How could they intensify that level of horror? I think they had to detach a bit, show the horror from a different angle, you know?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:17 PM on October 30, 2014

I will say, in the second movie, the director said that in the script the final shot called for Katinss to be overwhelmed and teary at the news her whole town being demolished, and they all talked actors and all and decided Katniss would be more ANGRY and end the movie on the shot her her angry face rather than a breakdwn.
posted by The Whelk at 8:32 PM on October 30, 2014

Well yeah, they had to set up... stuff (dunno if there's anyone here who hasn't read the third book) for the 3-4 movies so her arc is believable.

I do wonder if they're going to do another tone-deaf fast food tie-in for November.

yes I'm going opening night
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:51 PM on October 30, 2014

tl;dr version, there is no way in hell the economics of Panem work unless they have Trek style replicators

I would love to hear more thoughts on this topic! For me, the realism breaks down with the games themselves. They're supposed to be the "bread and circuses" of the Roman Empire, but those things were not built on Roman citizens being randomly drafted into violent competitions. The Romans ruled long partly because they were able to quickly make people able to see the *benefits* of joining the Empire. New conquests might be sold as slaves or become gladiators, but if that had happened to citizens, people would have revolted. Being a gladiator (which I guess is the closest analogue) was also something that was not usually fatal and could lead to upward social mobility. To me it's not clear why we only see revolts starting to break out at the 74th Hunger Games when I think they would have been occurring from the very start.
posted by chaiminda at 10:14 AM on October 31, 2014

To me it's not clear why we only see revolts starting to break out at the 74th Hunger Games when I think they would have been occurring from the very start.

It's been awhile since I read the books, but I thought it was implied that in the early years, revolts were so brutally put down that the Districts just stopped trying. District 13 getting seemingly wiped off the map probably helped enforce the fear. Also, given that the books are from such a close Katniss POV and she's so relentlessly focused on survival over politics, it seems entirely likely to me that there constantly little pockets of rebellion that are swiftly quashed and they just don't make it on screen or on page.

Also, that reminds me! One of my favorite things about the series, and a thing I thought the movie did a good job of showing, was that the catalyst for rebellion was not the Katniss/Peeta love story or their defiance of the Capitol. It was Rue's death, and more specifically, Katniss showing such obvious grief over her death. Because this, I think, is the thing Katniss does that sparks the rebellion more than anything else, more than volunteering for her sister, more than playing into the Katniss/Peeta love story. Because Katniss had no self-interested or obvious reason to mourn Rue. They weren't from the same district, they didn't really know each other, and Rue was marked as likely to die from the start given that she was one of the youngest tributes.

But Katniss mourned her, and in so doing, she reminded everyone watching of the brutality and wrongness of the Games. It was like her grief and rage gave others permission to feel their own grief and rage. Rue's death alone wouldn't have spurred the violent uprising from her district, because that's just business as usual for the Games, but Katniss's reaction was something else. Katniss enacted a funeral for Rue (maybe the only one she could or would have? does the Capitol return the bodies to the Tributes' families?). You could take her screaming and weeping to just be her snapping due to the stress of the Games, but laying Rue out with flowers? Singing for her? That might as well be an act of resistance in Panem. So I loved that the movie went immediately from showing Katniss doing her best to honor and mourn Rue, to Rue's district returning Katniss's salute and bursting into violence.

The foundational act of resistance in the Hunger Games series is Katniss mourning Rue, and is what gave the Districts the opening they needed to launch a rebellion, and there's something I find very powerful about that.
posted by yasaman at 11:03 AM on October 31, 2014 [10 favorites]

I wrote about it here. Basically, what we see of the Districts doesn't show nearly enough population to support the lifestyle of the Capitol. A single Escort shows up to 12, which contains enough people that the entire population can fit in the town square, and yet somehow that town produces enough coal (!) to provide the power needs of an obviously power-hungry city? Let alone the other 11 Districts? 12, population-wise, is a tiny little town. Perhaps--perhaps--it's the least populated of all the Districts. But still, we only see one Escort provided to each District, suggesting that every teenager can fit together in a single place. Plus the omnipresent Peacekeepers (nice Orwellian touch, that; or maybe hamhanded), most of whom per the books are drawn from the Districts--more Peacekeepers are shown onscreen than there are possible citizens in 12. Indeed, 12 isn't even so much a District as it is a small mining town--it's the only place the Victors live, for example.

Plus, as I wrote on my blog, consider the size of the Arenas. I actually did the math (yes shut up), and at a conservative estimate, assuming the Arenas are the same size each year, they're the size of Toronto. Imagine, if you will, the engineering required to build a totally controlled--and domed--environment every year for seventy-four years that is the size of a major-ish city. It takes 6-ish years to build the infrastructure for the Olympics and they only happen every four years. Even assuming major advances in technology, there's still got to be some lead time there.

So what the story asks us to believe is that somehow a nation of maybe fifty thousand people (the population of Twelve looks to only be a couple thousand at most) supports a parasite Capitol of at least as many, when it appears that the Capitol produces approximately nothing in terms of raw materials. Makes no sense. Plus. somehow the Districts either (barely, but still) feed themselves or e.g. Eleven is responsible for providing fruit to all Panem. There simply aren't enough workers to support that. And if they're feeding themselves, there definitely aren't enough workers to support the kind of resource extraction the Capitol feeds on.

To say nothing of all this magical handwavy technology and yet somehow the Capitol still runs on coal? The notion that coal is relevant anywhere outside the poorer Districts is laughable.

Onto the kids... again, as I wrote in my blog, there is no way in hell that kids in this society wouldn't be raised without at least rudimentary wilderness survival and combat skills. Way, way too much rides on their success for parents to allow their children to potentially be thrown into the Arena with no preparation. Sure, there are laws against it, but the rich Districts make do with the Careers, and evidence from both the books and the movies shows for example a thriving black market economy with Peacekeepers looking the other way. Besides, the Capitol would have an actual interest in kids being able to fight and survive--the spectacle lasts longer and is more gruesome. (Although I suppose you could argue they want a certain amount of cannon fodder to grind Districts further under heel; the reality-show aspects are more of a fringe bonus to the Citizens). In any case, even if it had to be done within the home under cover of darkness, no parent in any District would want to send their child into the Arena with little to no chance of survival. Doubly not when survival means everyone in the District eats better for the next year.

Speaking of parents, I find it difficult to imagine what kind of sociopathic assholes it would take to have children in a world where those children have a one-in-a-few-hundred chance (more than one, if they're taking extra food rations) of dying horribly for the entertainment of others. Seems like celibacy and lots of masturbation and oral sex would have turned into a societal good by this point; the Capitol can't exactly force people to procreate, and it's implied that the Capitol at least has access to effective birth control. Given the folk remedies and such on display in the books and movies, I'd be surprised if people hadn't figured out abortifacients at least.

As for why there hasn't been a revolution yet... these things take time. I'd wager that the initial Games were less flashy and much more brutal/gladiatorial. For a population already crushed by war, it would just be a continuation of the horror. The Capitol is better--essentially solely--armed and equipped; we're basically talking about peasants with dull pitchforks storming a 25th century fortress when it comes to revolution. (That changes by the third book/movie). After a few years, and especially as those alive pre-war die off, the Games become the new normal. (And Romans could be sentenced to gladiatorial combat, which is a pretty direct comparison.) I'd wager, and it's kinda-sorta borne out by the books, that the reason for the revolution is largely a critical mass of Victors who have seen behind the curtain--Snow's excesses, I'd guess, are probably a little more extreme than those of his predecessors. In the second book/movie they even explicitly talk about how having a bunch of living Victors around is dangerous. In the first, Haymitch pretty clearly talks about the machine and their part in it. Plus, when you're going up against a massively overpowering force, with intense surveillance capabilities and utter ruthlessness, it's going to take a long time to put together a big enough conspiracy to have any kind of effect. Plus plus on preview, what yasaman said about Rue.

it seems entirely likely to me that there constantly little pockets of rebellion that are swiftly quashed and they just don't make it on screen or on page.

Yes, this is the case. We see a brief flash of it towards the beginning of Catching Fire; remember that the Capitol has a total monopoly on all communications, and the Districts are kept both geographically and, uh, mentally? isolated.

"bread and circuses" - the circuses aren't for the Districts. The circuses are for the Capitol, with bread(crumbs) doled out based on how well the Districts dance and caper for their masters. Panem has no interest in becoming an empire and attracting new people; their only interest is in grinding down the have-nots and making them remember their place. Snow:Panem::Stalin:USSR.

All that being said I really do enjoy the books and movies and my these beans are tasty. Part of me wishes that Collins were not only a better writer, but writing for adults and not YA. She could have really fleshed out the world and things she elided (e.g. Odair's prostitution) for age-appropriate reasons. Not least because I really want to know:

What in the actual flying fuck is the rest of the world doing while this is going on? The Districts apparently cover, more or less, the geographic United States (even though each District is obviously actually only a small town + environs, separated by massive tracts of empty wilderness). What happened to the remnants of Canada? Mexico? China? Was there a major world war and Panem, somehow, was the only bastion of civilization to survive/redevelop? That thought beggars belief. And given how freely Panem transmits every drop of blood to everyone watching, it similarly beggars belief to suggest that the rest of the world is unaware that they force-sacrifice a teenager every year because Reasons. I find it difficult to believe that by the time of the Hunger Games the words 'regime change' are no longer in the vocabulary of any other world governments.

does the Capitol return the bodies to the Tributes' families?

Yes, they do. The bodies are retrieved at night by hovership and returned to their home Districts--it's useful to keep a reminder alive of exactly how and why these kids died and your kid could be next so keep in line.

Completely agreed with you about Rue, by the way. If you recall the (trying not to spoil here) ending of the third book, there is a thread through the entire story of Katniss' weak spot for her sister; Rue is Prim's surrogate in the Arena.

also I called Haymitch Haywood upthread derrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrp
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:11 AM on October 31, 2014 [5 favorites]

Yeah, the world of the Hunger Games breaks down really quickly on closer inspection, so it's best not to try to make too much sense of it.

Just population wise, it's problematic. In order to be able to "wipe out" District 12, its population couldn't be more than a million or two. Even being generous, there's maybe 25 million people in all of Panem. The Hunger Games wiki places the total population at 4.5 million. How is that level of population able to sustain the massive amount of technology?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 11:30 AM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

The population of 12 can't be more than a few thousand actually. There were fewer kids in the square in the opening scenes of the movie than were in my high school.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:34 AM on October 31, 2014

I guess that's the thing for me... a little more work, and so many of the ways the world breaks down could have been dealt with:

- Show shots of kids assembling in many town squares, video links between them, some sort of computer link to transmit all the kids' names to one place in each District. Draw name, proceed with movie. Or show hordes of kids being bussed in to the capital town of each District. Point being, establish a much larger population.

- Katniss has extra advantages because she knows how to hunt etc, but even bits in the background of kids learning basic skills--perhaps stopping when a Peacekeeper walks by--would fix the problem of being totally unprepared

- Would require a factual change from the books, but the arena could be The Arena, reconfigured each year for the Games.

- Switch the mining from coal to, say, iron
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:07 PM on October 31, 2014


I get that that's more of what Collins was going for, but I just can't see that kind of brutality lasting for 74 years without more uprisings--I can't picture human beings watching that for 74 years and only deciding to revolt because of Katniss's love for Rue (touching as it is). And from the perspective of the Capitol, it's *easier* to keep people subjugated and docile when you don't kill them unnecessarily and provide them with the basics they need to live. Take Communist Romania--many Romanians remember the earlier period of communism fondly, because although there was lots of suppression and cruel "redistributing" of people, things were relatively peaceful. By the end, when Ceausescu started exporting all of the food to reduce the national debt, and people started going hungry, people were ready to rise up against him, and did.

The usual excuse for doing things the cruel way is cheapness (or "we're trying this out for science!"), but the Hunger Games do not accomplish that, either. They must be spending a fortune on those games, and every time a child dies they are creating a potential terrorist against their government in every living relative of that child. It just doesn't make sense from the Capitol's perspective. They would have more docile districts and more money if they just fed people a little more and let them watch soap operas.
posted by chaiminda at 1:23 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

That's the thing though, I think in the context of Panem the slide into truly brutal repression has been going on for a long time; things weren't as downright evil 74 years ago as they are today. Plus the Capitol put down early uprisings so hard--wiping an entire District off the map (ahem)--that actually rebelling became unthinkable, impossible to even comprehend how. Note that when the revolution comes, it takes a whole lot of people in the Capitol to make it work. The serfs in the Districts can only riot; it took persuading people near the apex of power in Panem (Plutarch Heavensbee, e.g.) that the Games are evil before something could truly be done.

Doing things the cruel way, in this case, seems to me to be a confluence of factors:

- starting from a relatively brutal regime, instituting the Hunger Games as a means of control and reminding all citizens that the Capitol literally has the power of life and death over everyone

- in regimes like that, the more brutal you are the more likely you are to rise to the top

- leading to utterly amoral sociopaths like Snow bubbling up like turds to the top of diarrhoea soup and then crushing everyone below them.

- Citizens in the Capitol become more and more used to the Games as a way of life--it's practically a religion; imagine if everyone's lives revolved around say the Superbowl--leading the Games and the inherent cruelty involved in their infrastructure to become more and more embedded in society, leading to more and more violent repression of any sedition

- 100% control of all communications by the Capitol, plus the geographic isolation of each District, means it's very hard to coordinate any kind of rebellion, and individual Districts by design do not have the power or technology to conduct a revolution of their own. And if they do, they have the example of District 13 to show them exactly what will happen. Rumours sift through of uprisings, yes, but then comes news of absolute brutal repression.

Perhaps a better analogy would be to the slave trade. Absolutely chock-full of wanton cruelty, and went on for a good deal longer than 74 years without any credible uprisings in the USA at least (and lbr, Panem is a metaphor for the USA in a bunch of different ways: propaganda, bloodsport, reality TV, slavery, class war..).

Thing is, in Panem most of the time it is pretty peaceful. And the leadership can't end the Games because so much of the Capitol's social and economic life is predicated on their existence. Better to worry about the odd riot in an outlying District and crush it with brutal efficiency than to--to steal your terms--take away the soap opera of the elites.

Which, on thinking about that, suggests to me that the Hunger Games are a dual method of control: subjugate the serfs with brutality, and provide an opiate for the chattering classes in the Capitol itself. One that reaffirms their obvious distinction as being better than those poor idiots.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:43 PM on October 31, 2014

Plus, Haymitch has that throwaway line "You can handle riots, you've done it before."

Suggests that uprisings happen not infrequently (Seneca has only been Gamesmaster for three years in this movie), just that the propaganda machine keeps the information away from the populace at large. I'd suspect uprisings could even be twisted to serve propaganda needs within the Capitol itself, to reaffirm the necessity of the Games. Look at Effie: she's a True Believer that the Games are required to keep their society functioning, and never looks at the deeper issues at play. She has a bunch of self-preservation wound up in that of course, but even at the beginning of the movie she kind of recognizes the problem. "Even though you're here, and even though it's only for a little while," she says, before pulling out the full noblesse oblige at how lucky Katniss and Peeta (PeeNiss hahahahahah sorry) are to experience a little luxury before they get hacked to pieces.

At the end of the day, what the Capitol is saying--particularly with how the Games are rigged, and again I'd guess that in the history of Panem things like the Mutts and fireballs and the utter rigged-against-them nonsense in the second movie have been an incremental change year over year--is "don't even bother to fight us. We have more guns, and they're bigger. You depend on us to survive. We will kill your children, and you can't do anything about it. If you do, here's what District 13 looks like today."

It's possible to believe that the Games initially began as "You rebelled against us, but now we give you the chance to fight and regain honour for your District" in a more-or-less honest (albeit twisted) way. Still used as a vehicle for control, yes, but somewhat 'fair.' Consider the notion that they could have been imposed on the Districts as sort of an Olympics-by-lottery-plus-death, and it sort of falls into place as to how the Games could have been seen as not completely evil to start with. If you squint, maybe. It's only as they Games continued and a) uprisings happened from time to time, and b) the citizenry of the Capitol became inured and thus the intensity had to be ramped up, that the repression alongside would also be ramped up to compensate.

(As a side note, I really wish Collins had elucidated what Snow's endgame for the 'kill the Victors' Games was. One of them would have had to survive; they also needed a way to guarantee eliminating Katniss and Peeta at the hands of the other Tributes. Parachutes in the night, maybe? IIRC, not all of the Tributes were in on the conspiracy. Unless the plan was to wait until only a couple were left and program the Arena to kill them off--technically there'd be a Victor and benefits to a District, without any pesky live body to possibly say the wrong thing. )

Cruelty is only a danger to the ruling classes when the serfs have the ability to fight back and the belief that they even can. The Districts (except perhaps 1 and 2, but they're essentially quislings anyway) don't have the ability, nor the belief that they could. Or even escape, for that matter; look at the dynamics of the conversation between Katniss and Gale at the beginning. Katniss is the one saying it's not possible to truly fight back or escape. It has been ground out of them by the unrelenting death and blood.

I guess what I'm saying, and Collins shows imperfectly though explicitly, is that there are layers and layers and layers of control: the Capitol citizens are controlled by the spectacle (carrot); Districts are controlled by the brutality (stick, with a 1/12 carrot-chance of eating better for the next year); Victors are controlled by threats of violence to their families and showered with money and fame (carrot and stick); Games staff are controlled by violence (poor Seneca and His Beard).

I think at the end, for Snow, it's all just a game. Repress too hard and you get an uprising; be too lenient and you lose the fear. For me, it seems like his motivation is keeping those plates spinning, playing those balances against each other, and being utterly in control of everyone and everything in his orbit. He doesn't really seem to consider the possibility that Katniss might refuse his demands--but he layers on the threats to be sure.

bean overdose send halp
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:10 PM on October 31, 2014 [8 favorites]

Slave trade is a good analogy--but again, it's cheaper to use slave labor than to pay people. They had an economic incentive.

One thing that's not clear to me about the rebellion that happens in the later books is what allowed it to happen, other than revolts inspired by Katniss's actions. Is there new technology that allows the districts to communicate? Did District 13 just recently make contact with the other Districts? That might be explained in Catching Fire or Mockingjay, but I don't remember. Why did none of the other revolts succeed when this one does? If it's because of involvement of people from the Capitol, why weren't they involved before?

(Just want to say also that I enjoyed this movie quite a bit, and I think it says some interesting things even if the world0building doesn't entirely make sense to me. But am I the only one who liked the second movie better?)
posted by chaiminda at 2:10 PM on October 31, 2014

North Korea is on year 64, right? So I can buy the oppression premise.

So are they going to introduce avoxes or what? Because I thought they were really important.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:56 PM on October 31, 2014

I loved this movie so much and I didn't expect to. I was more lukewarm on the books than a lot of people. But the actors really made it for me (well, I'm meh on Peeta). Haymitch? Perfect. Effie? Perfect. (Effie's clothes? So perfect.)
posted by small_ruminant at 10:59 PM on October 31, 2014

I read the books when a schoolteacher friend loaned them to me when she said all the kids were reading it. I was a little stunned because I felt like it was a little much for middle-schoolers.

The one thing I feel like they missed is the setup between Katniss and Peeta. Peeta had liked Katniss for years by the time the story starts. The movie just seems to assume a relationship without establishing the most important parts of how that relationship started.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:59 AM on November 1, 2014

The Avoxes are the women in the red dresses in both movies so far. I think it's a bit late to turn them into a plot point, and from the POV of telling a cinematic story they're essentially superfluous anyway.

The Katniss/Peeta setup was done very well, I thought? Katniss basically never much noticed that Peeta was alive. To him, everything about her matters and is important. To her, the only truly important interaction she ever had with him was the bread in the rain. However, given the stuff that happens in Mockingjay, I'm fully expecting a whole bunch of backstory/exposition/flashback things to happen.

Everything about Effie is perfect. Banks should have gotten an Oscar frankly. And don't you dare say you're meh on Peeta because my future ex-husband is a sensitive man.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:41 AM on November 1, 2014

Also hadn't thought about North Korea before but the parallels are pretty stark.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:51 AM on November 1, 2014

NK is a great analogy.

I love Peeta in the books but I'm not a big fan of the movie actor, though he did show more depth in the second movie. I like how short he is, though--I wonder if that was done intentionally to highlight the lack of traditional gender roles in the relationship. Normally it seems like the male lead in an action movie is a fair bit taller than the female lead.
posted by chaiminda at 5:00 AM on November 1, 2014

I like to think there was a deliberate choice made. Hemsworth (Gale) is your stock standard movie idol type: tall, dark, so dreamy with those big eyes and the arms and... where was I?

Right. Hutcherson on the other hand is pretty much the epitome (in movie terms anyway) of Boy Next Door. Unassuming, short, adorable as hell. A puppy.

I'm not honestly sure how much gender roles are really subverted, to be honest. Katniss is strong and takes no shit and is a great role model for girls and boys, don't get me wrong. But it's not difficult to argue a position that at its base this is a mother-protecting-daughter movie.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:23 AM on November 1, 2014

It's the Katniss/Peeta relationship that I think subverts gender roles. He does want to protect her, yes, but she winds up saving him many more times than he does her. He's emotionally aware while she is afraid of her feelings. A lot of Peeta's strengths are traditionally feminine ones, which I think is awesome.

(See also: John and Aeryn from Farscape for another fictional couple that would be incredibly dull to watch if the genders of the characters were reversed.)
posted by chaiminda at 8:10 AM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ohh, okay. Totally misread what you were saying.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:33 AM on November 1, 2014

From Metafilter's Own Linda Holmes: What really makes Katniss stand out? Peeta, her movie girlfriend.
posted by lunasol at 4:52 AM on November 2, 2014

Mod note: Folks, please don't discuss later movies in a post for an earlier one. Thanks.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:19 PM on November 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

(PeeNiss hahahahahah sorry)

posted by radwolf76 at 12:54 PM on November 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Another vote for the absolute genius of Stanley Tucci. He goes back and forth from manipulative to concerned in an instant, and OH those TEETH!!!! He's just eating everything up, even more than Effie.

I need to hop over to the Amazing Race thread and start calling the male dentist Flickerman.
posted by Madamina at 5:34 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I want to single out Banks here, Effie could've been such a stock character but she pulled in so much pathos- when she mouths along to the video, she's a true believer, she has to be to stay sane.

She could have been so much more Doleros Umbridge or Tilda Swinton in Snowpeircer but she comes off as this delicate assortment of defenses ( the fashion, the devotion, the cant) that's about to crack at any moment.

I mean Effie is legit *terrified* so often but putting on her big pink brave face.
posted by The Whelk at 5:44 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hear hear! She rocked that part and it could easily have been played by Just Anyone In A Costume, at least in the early movies. I am really impressed with Banks.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:05 PM on November 3, 2014

Another vote for the absolute genius of Stanley Tucci. He goes back and forth from manipulative to concerned in an instant, and OH those TEETH!!!!

When I read the book, I couldn't picture his threateningly white and perfect smile. But, man, they really got it right, in the movie.
posted by meese at 5:41 PM on November 6, 2014

I wondered if they extended them a little bit. I have never seen anyone whose bottom teeth show that much.
posted by small_ruminant at 5:53 PM on November 6, 2014

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