Let’s Talk About: Ranking the Hunger Games Movies
I started 2021 re-watching the entire Hunger Games series, and now I want to talk about it.
Let’s just jump in because we have lots to cover…
1 Catching Fire (The 2nd Movie)
What I Liked
The Quarter Quell
I mean it’s pretty simple, without the fuel of the Quarter Quell (pulling victors back into the games) proving that the Capitol will never fully let anyone from the districts win the Hunger Games, the revolution probably wouldn’t have happened in the way that it did. Or at all. Not only does this twist for the 75th Games add fire to the revolution and a wrench in the plan that was Katniss and Peeta’s “happy ending”, but for many other reasons this becomes my favourite film of the series and possibly one of my favourite movies to re-watch of all time.
The arena is a no brainer as one of the reasons why the Quarter Quell is so compelling. It’s so savvy, creative, and down-right terrifying. This gave the director (Frances Lawrence) so much to work with, and took the second games that we were seeing to another level. Bringing in previous victors is fascinating enough, making the combat and forming of alliances way more complex and mature, but adding that to the brilliance of the arena made these games so much more fascinating.
The 3rd point I’ll make about why I love Catching Fire the way I do is just the pure existence of Finnick as a character. He (and the actor Sam Claflin) was my first movie-star crush and I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for him. Plus the casting of Sam for Finnick was so unbelievably spot on for how many of book readers envisioned him. The only negative I can think of about Catching Fire is literally that I would’ve liked more of Finnick’s back-story, but that’s just me being greedy.
2 The Hunger Games (The First Movie)
What I Liked
Sets the Stage
It’s hard to not rank the first movie of any series high. It’s kind of like not recognizing the importance of the first Iron Man movie in the MCU. The Hunger Games movie really does a great job at setting the scene, establishing the universe and all of it’s conflicts and issues without too straight up dialogue-heavy expplanation scenes. With a few short explanations at the beginning of the film, the rest of the universe is laid out well through the narrative plot.
In terms of relationships, the Capitol-District dichotomy and relationship is developed well, and so are the personal ones between Katniss and her family, and between her and Gale, and even her and the Capitol as a whole.
Although out of the 24 tributes we really only get to hear around 8 of them actually have any lines, I think they still manage to add a lot of levity to the story and made me itch for wanting to know more about them.
What I Didn’t Like
Lack of Tribute Development
While the tributes are one of the positives in this film, they always happen to be one of the negatives. The lack of their character development was a slight issue for me, but not a major one. Either way, most audiences will still feel immense remorse for most of their deaths given that they’re children and all. But knowing (and having seen) the deleted scenes where they showed several other tributes being interviewed by Casesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) was definitely a poor choice in my opinion (even if it was a justified one for production reasons). Those scenes alone really showed another side to the characters (or any side at all) that we otherwise didn’t see at all.
The second and only other negative to this first film that I will be addressing is the shaky camera. While most prominent in the exposition scenes of District 12, the camera remains with a slight tremor for a lot of the games and it really bothered me throughout the most recent time I saw this film. But by far the shaky camera in the first exposition shots bothers me way more. I understand the artistic choice but dang, it’s a lot.
3 Mockingjay Part 2 (The Fourth Movie)
What I Liked
I mean, it’s the finale, it’s gotta be good. It can’t be ranked fourth of four.
Action Packed “76th Hunger Games”
One of my favourite lines in this film, said by my favourite character (Finnick, of course) is “ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 76th Hunger Games”. It truly speaks to how impressive the Capitol is at innovation and technology in terms of protecting itself, by constructing these deadly and creative pods all around the city as if it was an arena itself. This makes for a very deadly, high-paced storming of the capitol that I appreciated after the ‘breather’ that is the third film.
Snow vs. Katniss vs. Coin
This trio dynamic, although only seen all together in person once, was such an interesting pinnacle moment in Katniss’ character development. The actors are absolutely phenomenal and carry on the tradition of the series of just absolutely spot-on, brilliant casting, pulling the characters right out of the pages of the books.
What I Didn’t Like
He didn’t need to die. Straight up. The only reasoning is the demonstrate, yet again, the tragedies and sacrifices of war and of a revolution. But, c’mon… Just wound him or something.
Okay, fine, if you’re going to kill him for drama and heartbreak (that you most certainly caused considering how beloved he was by not only just me) at least make his death better than just fall into a pit of zombie-mutts. Really? He deserved more, enough said.
As much as this is a negative, since that’s super (super) sad. Her death had so much meaning to it and truly represents a death that was all of the “good” things a movie-death can be in my eyes:
– Meaningful to the Narrative (the entire story begins with her being saved and ends with her being un-saveable)
– Develops characters around her (Effectively ends the relationships between Katniss and Gale, drives her to do the right thing in the end which was to kill Coin, etc.)
– Truly tragic in how did they die (Prim’s death may have been somewhat unnecessary but at the same time it effectively ended the war immediately, giving it meaning to the story and driving the story forward. She also died doing something meaningful in an epic sort of way).
To loop back around, I personally don’t see Finnick’s death and fully qualifying to any of these points.
4 Mockingjay Part 1 (The Third Movie)
What I Liked
I love a good calm before the storm movie where we can take a step back and assess where we are. Many might say this film was ‘boring’ or even unnecessary. I’ll explain why it’s not to me using another film as an analogy. In terms of their positions in their respective series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (which I also love) is the same as Mockingjay Part 1 to me. Why?
– The simplest explanation is they are both the second to last films of a series.
– They are both in between a period in the universe where everything is “seemingly normal” (Harry’s at Hogwarts and the Hunger Games are still running/the districts aren’t in full rebellion).
– They both allow for the main characters and their counter-parts to become adults, learn about the past and drive the future of the rebellion/war forward (Harry, Ron and Hermione’s relationship develops while they hunt Horcruxes and learn about how to defeat Voldemort, while Katniss and Gales relationship plummets as she realizes her love for Peeta as she also becomes the driving force behind the rebellion).
I could go on about their similarities, but no matter what I really appreciate these movies for what they are and the important places they hold in their respective series’.
Tribute Rescue from the Capitol
This is one of the only bits of “action” or suspense we get in this film (besides the very end) and I think this was done so interestingly. Getting to hear more of Finnick’s story and seeing a cumulative act come together where the sacrifices of individual districts has actually provoked real change was a great climax to this particular film.
What I Didn’t Like
Not Enough Finnick
This, alongside Joanna, can qualify for the 4th film as well. Of course not every side-plot in the books can be told in the movies, but I sure wish it was possible.
Development and Explanation of 13
Same goes for the development of 13. This is first time we as viewers (and from the perspective of Katniss) are seeing anything from 13 and I think it’s a shame that there wasn’t more space for the questions about it and monumentality of the fact that a whole society of people survived and are living underground when the Capitol thought they were long gone. That’s crazy and I would have loved to see more of their backstory.