Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Screenplay by: Danny Strong and Peter Craig
Based on: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
I’ve only read the first Hunger Games book. That either makes me the perfect reviewer for the movies, or maybe a woefully incompetent one. It does mean, however, that I’m taking the movies one at a time, because I don’t know what happens.
I know it makes me a bad anarchist to say this, but the worst thing about the third part of the Hunger Games is that there aren’t any hunger games. It’s just a movie about revolution instead. Considering that the hunger games are an awful thing and revolutions are something us anarchists are known for encouraging, this is a strange statement. But frankly, the battle royale under the omniscient gaze of an evil dictator made for good fiction.
Revolution can too, it turns out. I liked the movie, but it was decidedly less fun, and in so many ways less spectacular, than the first two. It was just, well, a completely different thing. Which is better than just making the same movie three times, I suppose, from a storytelling point of view. So I’ll forgive it.
Not everyone knows we’re living in a cyberpunk dystopia yet. Because of the democracy in place, we have the illusion of control. Because we have the illusion of control, we shun everyone who acts outside the system.
In the third installment of the Hunger Games films, our protagonist has been rescued/kidnapped by the revolutionists and must come to terms with herself as a revolutionary icon (less of a leader, more of an icon).
Walking up to the theatre, I thought to myself “once the revolution has to actually pick a form — an ideology and a strategy — I’ll probably identify with this series a lot less.” It’s true that you’re going to get democracy-rolled with this installment. (It’s like rick-rolling but instead of Rick Astley singing “never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down” you get the advocacy of representative democracy.) But they handle it great.
I loved the weird dystopian resistance center. Our revolutionaries are a strangely-realistic mix of cynical and earnest. They’re true believers in representative democracy and dammit they’re going to fight hard and a little bit dirty to get it.
I love how flawed the revolutionaries are, especially since they espouse a still-not-freedom ideology. (What? I’m an anarchist. I tend to think that states and representatives are not so good.) I’m glad to see that our revolutionary president is still just another politician, albeit a straightforward one.
I also love how unglorious this war is. It’s got more PTSD and hiding in bunkers during air raids and less waving flags and running towards death. Though there’s a bit of the latter and it’s the unnamed proletarians who do all the glorious dying, so that’s a bit awkward.
This dystopia thing, and revolutions led by teenage girls against said dystopias, is all the rage these days. There are strange statist leftists claiming that these books and films are cynical pro-free-market attacks on the sanctity of the state, but I’m going to go ahead and laugh endlessly at the sheer ignorance of that idea. It comes from this absurdly naive point of view in which the only options are totalitarian states or dog-eat-dog capitalism. Even representative democracy is better than either of those. And anarchism, of course, has been espousing and enacting anti-state but also anti-capitalist ideas for over 150 years.
The Hunger Games have been referenced by several real-world protest groups, from environmentalists in the US (who were unironically charged as terrorists for the glitter that fell from their “the odds are never in our favor” banner) to protestors in Thailand who were arrested — once again, unironically — as they used the three-finger salute of resistance.
But still, while I’d like to think we’re in a more revolutionary moment than we were at the turn of the millennia, we’re surrounded by popular support of revolutionary media (like Hunger Games) and only mixed support at best of actual revolutionary moments (like the #blacklivesmatter protestors). Why is that?
My hypothesis is: not everyone knows we’re living in a cyberpunk dystopia yet. Sure, we’ve got drones and mercenary armies and a pretty blatant acknowledgement that our “democracy” is run by the corporate elite. We’ve got climate change and free trade agreements and a preposterous divide between the haves and the have-nots. But still, the majority of people, at least in America, don’t recognize our society as dystopian. Because of the democracy in place, we have the illusion of control. Because we have the illusion of control, we shun everyone who acts outside the system.
Everyone who grew up on American movies knows in their heart that it’s okay to pick up a gun and shoot invaders and tyrants. If China invaded, hoo boy, they’d have to pry our guns from our cold dead hands. If we lived in numbered districts in abject poverty maybe we’d throw off our shackles and run unarmed at the guards. But we don’t live quite like that and we don’t fight back like that. While I’m glad Hunger Games and Snowpiercer and all those other books and movies exist to reinforce the idea that “yes, under certain circumstances, we should take up arms,” I don’t know when it is that people will accept the bare facts they face.
In the meantime, I suppose I’ll just keep reviewing movies.