Movie Recap: The Hunger Games

Before we begin, it’s necessary to remember that hunger is a serious ongoing problem in the United States—please consider matching the cost of your movie ticket in a donation to one of the charities with an A or B rating on Charity Watch (or four stars on Charity Navigator).

IT’S HERE IT’S HERE IT’S FINALLY HERE. There are not words for how enjoyable this movie was, but you’re going to get several thousand of them anyway. Short version, no spoilers: yes, go see it. If you are a fan of the books, go see it. If you are considering reading the books, go see it (and then read the books). If you have no interest in reading the books, stop breaking my heart (and go see it) (and then read the books).

Other reasons you should see it:

+Strong female action protagonist
+Accessible commentary on things like violence and media and exploitation
+Jennifer Lawrence, who has been one of my favorite actresses since Winter’s Bone (which you should also see), and the rest of the performers. Do they give Oscars for casting? This movie deserves it.
+Guaranteed at least one person you want to kiss on the mouth is going to see it, so why not have another thing to talk to them about?
+The Bladder Challenge: is YOUR bladder strong enough to hold a whole Icee for two and a half hours?

(Seriously, this is a long movie. Pee beforehand.)

For the basic plot and relevant information, there’s a book review right here, or you can click the jump and dive into the recap!

The Hunger Games begins with several plain black title cards explaining that the country of Panem was totally peaches and cream until some uppity poor people got cranky about how the Capitol was keeping their faces in the dirt with a jackboot on the backs of their heads, and put on a rebellion. The rebellion was crushed, and now, as a reminder of those dark days, one boy and one girl from each district between the ages of 12 and 17 is selected to fight to the death in the Hunger Games.

We continue with a chatty interview about the history and meaning of the upcoming events, held between animated Capitol talk-show host Caesar Flickerman, and head Gamemaker in charge of the 74th Hunger Games, Handsome Seneca Crane’s Handsome Beard. Caesar Flickerman, in the books, is the man responsible for introducing the people of Panem to the Tributes, one boy and one girl from each district of Panem. His job is to show them in their best light, asking questions to humanize them and gain them support from people with money. He’s a cog in the Capitol’s machine, but I found it hard to hate him in the books, and Stanley Tucci’s perfect performance upholds that sense of cognitive dissonance I had. He’s creepy in that he’s so emblematic of the awful things the Capitol stands for, but he’s so charming, and it’s impossible to tell if he even cares.

Also wonderfully cast is Wes Bentley as Handsome Seneca Crane’s Handsome Beard. In addition to this opening, the film also intersperses a series of conversations between Crane and President Snow, which was a clever way of expanding the world of the book out past Katniss’s point of view and giving the audience a little extra meat to chew through. Also, it goes without saying that a man with a beard like that is super terrible as a person. He takes pride in his work, and there would be nothing wrong with that…if his work wasn’t engineering the deaths of 23 children every year for the past three years. The film doesn’t dehumanize him, but it also makes no bones about what he does.

We slam from the interview directly into District 12, where Katniss’s little sister, Prim (Willow Shields), is screaming in Katniss’s arms, having woken up from a dream in which she was chosen as Tribute. Katniss tries to console her, reminding her that it’s the first year she’s been in the running and the odds against her being chosen are high. Prim makes Katniss sing her a lullaby:

Deep in the meadow, under the willow
A bed of grass, a soft green pillow
Lay down your head, and close your sleepy eyes
And when again they open, the sun will rise

and then leaves Prim to sing herself the rest. Katniss has got shit to do, mainly threatening Prim’s pet cat and crossing a downed electric fence to poach a few forest critters. Her journey gives us some too-short glimpses of District 12’s poorest area, the Seam, which looks amazing from the few parts we see of it. The whole town is tired and beaten down, from the citizens to the buildings covered in coal dirt. It’s a nice touch that we also see the Capitol people in their crisp white uniforms trying to make it look presentable for television.

We also get a lot of gorgeous shots of the mountains surrounding District 12 (filming took place in North Carolina—lookin’ good, birthplace). Katniss stalks a deer through the woods with her hidden bow and arrows, and would have shot it if Gale Hawthorne, professional annoying childhood friend, hadn’t come up and scared it away on purpose with his loud stupid voice, claiming that Katniss’s spindly little girl arms couldn’t possibly drag it back to the Seam. Liam Hemsworth does a fine job with a fairly thankless role (I will maintain until my death that this story didn’t really need a romantic interest for Katniss, but I also understand that, considering YA publishing trends, the book never would have sold without both of them), which I assume will be expanded in the next two movies. For now, he mostly just smirks all the time and provides a little exposition, letting us know about the existence of Peacekeepers (what’s up, Farscape?) and how both he and Katniss sell their illegal game to them.

Katniss chews him out, so he spooks a flock of birds out of the trees so she can shoot one to sell. A hovercraft suddenly blorps into the sky, prompting them to take cover. When it passes, they sit out on the grass, staring over the beautiful mountains, contemplating running away. Katniss says they wouldn’t make it five miles. Gale argues—he would make it five miles. Aim high, kid. Gale gives Katniss some bread, which she grabs and excitedly confirms that it’s real.

Katniss trades the bird meat back at the Seam’s marketplace, called the Hob. She finds a pin—bird on an arrow, flying in a circle—in a little dish of trinkets, and the vendor tells her to go ahead and keep it. (In the book, the mayor’s daughter, Madge Undersee, gives Katniss the pin after she volunteers for the Games. There’s a history to it that was justifiably changed, because it would have taken a lot of explanation, but it’s still a teensy bummer that this part of the story was cut.) Katniss then goes home and sees Prim in her Reaping Day best. She coos over her as their mother watches pensively. Mama Everdeen quietly informs Katniss that there’s a dress waiting for her, too, and we are treated to the (thankfully, awesomely) least sexy bathtub scene featuring a woman as beautiful as Jennifer Lawrence in the history of bathtub scenes, as Katniss scrubs the dirt from her feet and nails. She stares down the plain blue dress laid out on her bed like it’s going to jump up and smother her.

The next scene, where Mama Everdeen fixes Katniss’s hair into its signature pretty Medusa-tangle of braids, is tense until Prim shows up and declares that she’d like to look like Katniss. Katniss is immediately a great big sister, arguing that she’d like to look like Prim. She tucks the back of Prim’s shirt in, calling her Little Duck and handing her the pin from the Hob, saying that nothing bad will happen if Prim has it. DON’T EVER DO THAT. You’ll be doomed to terrible dramatic irony if you do!

As Katniss and Prim make their way to the town square (right outside the Hall of Justice) with the rest of District 12, Prim sees the Capitol checkpoint and begins to have a panic attack. Katniss calms her down and sends her to get her finger pricked as identification, then goes and does it herself. All of the sad teenagers in their own Reapday best stand around, watching themselves with both wariness and weariness on the huge screens. The crowd is silent as Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) totters out on her crazy high heels, looking like ten kinds of hot mess. She starts in on her spiel, impossibly cheerful in the face of TOTAL AND UTTER HATRED, and shows an implausibly terrible propaganda video about the history of the Hunger Games, essentially reiterating the opening title cards with a trite voiceover from President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland). Effie reverently mouths the last few lines to herself, then greets the absolute silence with a giant grin. She runs them through the rules—one boy, one girl, fight to the death, etc.—and, with a “Ladies first,” draws a card out of the bowl.

Primrose Everdeen.

Prim, shocked and terrified, quietly tucks her shirt into her skirt and starts walking up to the stage. She’s shocked out of her daze by Katniss screaming her name and running for her, only to be stopped by Peacekeepers. Katniss throws them off and shrieks that she volunteers, composing herself and repeating it when the Peacekeepers let go of her. Effie, delighted by this turn of events, calls Katniss up to the stage. It’s Prim’s turn to scream for her sister until Gale picks her up and takes her away. It’s so sad and so well acted.

The boy Tribute is Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson).

This is the most awkward stage in history since Peeta once found a starving Katniss outside his family’s bakery, and tossed some burned bread into the mud for her to eat. Effie forces them to shake hands. They both look like they would rather milk rattlesnakes, but they do.

Later, in the train that takes the Tributes to the Capitol, Katniss is given a few minutes to say good-bye to her family for probably the last time. Prim gives the Mockingjay pin back, all “You need this more than I do, bro,” and says “You can win, maybe.” Katniss, upset but hiding it, promises that Gale will bring them meat and Prim can sell cheese from her goat. She firmly tells Mama Everdeen that she can’t check out again, “Not like after dad died.” Mama Everdeen promises, and Katniss hugs her, telling her not to cry. Peacekeepers burst in and drag the Everdeens away from each other, Prim still screaming. Katniss touches the doorknob and pushes it open a little, then steps back as Gale bursts in like a sasquatch. Katniss hugs him and tells him he has to take care of her family. “Don’t let them starve, Gale!” she says frantically, and Gale is taken away from her, too.

She and Peeta are brought into the travel car. Effie tells them she’s glad they get to experience such luxury for once in their poory poor poor lives, and Katniss stares in awe at all the fancy food. I was a little grumpy that they didn’t have her eating her way through the Capitol’s supply of lamb stew, but considering that some reviewers (PROFESSIONAL REVIEWERS! ADULT PROFESSIONAL REVIEWERS, TALKING ABOUT A YOUNG WOMAN’S BODY THIS WAY! THIS IS WHY CHILDREN THINK BULLYING IS ACCEPTABLE!) are claiming that Jennifer Lawrence isn’t skinny enough to play Katniss, maybe it was a preemptive strike against this kind of bullshit. Read the Slate article, as it’s far more coherent than I can be on this topic, but short version with no swears: the fact that Jennifer Lawrence physically looks capable of kicking ass without hurting herself is more crucial to the film than her having hollowed-out cheekbones and the ability to comfortably rest a hotdog between each of her ribs. The latter of which couldn’t actually have even been the case for Book Katniss, because she probably wouldn’t have made it through the training process, much less the actual Hunger Games. Also, it goes without saying that all bodies are fine if their owner is okay with them, and obviously the people in charge of this film were also okay with Jennifer Lawrence’s body, because we know that movie people have no problem telling thin women to get thinner.

I’M SORRY I’M JUST VERY ANGRY. Both Katniss and Lawrence are the kind of women I want my sisters and nieces to look up to, and I don’t like that this kind of shit has to come into play.

Anyway, nobody eats anything and it’s all very sad. Effie goes to find Haymitch (“He’s probably in the bar car”), and Peeta tries to talk to Katniss. She doesn’t answer him, and he gets angry and leaves to also find Haymitch.

Haymitch Abernathy finds them both later when he staggers in and immediately tries to drink all the liquor everywhere. One thing that was a little disappointing here was that his drinking wasn’t as excessive as it was in the book—the dude was kind of a hot goddamn mess in the book, and it made his later transformation into an actual decent mentor all the more meaningful and important. Here, he drinks like he’s had a bad day, not a bad life. This is really the only scene where he drinks. But Woody Harrelson is wonderful nonetheless, managing to convey his character’s journey from cynicism and bitterness about his charges to the care and concern he has for them by the end in just a few short scenes. His cynicism and bitterness manifests itself in him telling Peeta that they’re going to die, he can’t save them, and they’d best commence with making peace with it.

At breakfast the next morning, Katniss enters the dining car to see Haymitch not-quite-telling Peeta how to find shelter and other such survival tips. Katniss demands to learn the arcane arts of survival, like not setting a fire while people are trying to kill you, but Haymitch is hungover and not having any of her attitude. She eventually plants a knife between his fingers when he reaches for the jam, trying to stare him down.

“Congratulations. You just killed a placemat,” he says, jams his bread, and tells her that the key to survival is getting people to like her. As if on cue, the train pulls into the station at the Capitol (I read that downtown Raleigh served as the Capitol, but everything looks computer generated so you can’t tell), and Peeta grins and waves at the adoring fans. Haymitch gives the knife back to Katniss, telling her she’s going to need it because “[Peeta] knows what he’s doing.”

Random shots of the Capitol citizens come next. I…was disappointed for really the only time in the movie. In the books, everything about the Capitol peeps is a distasteful rococo nightmare, with crazy colors and plastic surgery and body mods and whatnot, but the citizens we see are almost boring. Long gold eyelashes? Bad weaves and faded dye jobs? This would have been the time to go balls-to-the-wall-and-maybe-on-the-forehead insane with prosthetics and costuming, but all of these people look like they’re heading to a Lady Gaga concert after a trip to Hot Topic. Maybe all of the practical effects budgeting went to Seneca Crane’s beard?

Katniss lies on a bed and is primped, prodded, poked, and plegwaxed by a team of bitchy aestheticians who could use some aestheticizing themselves. Finally, she is left alone with Cinna, who is just the bee’s knees. Lenny Kravitz, like Woody Harrelson, has such wonderful chemistry with Jennifer Lawrence that there’s real feeling in their scenes together. Also, Lenny Kravitz has a portrait hidden in an attic somewhere, I swear to blob.

Cinna tells her he’s going to do his damndest to help her win. She’s confused, because people have just been congratulating her all day, but Cinna assures her that he’s going to make sure nobody ever forgets her, and that her outfits are like so totally awesome oh my god. And they are—he designs outfits for Katniss and Peeta to wear for the opening ceremonies, in which Tributes ride through an amphitheater on horse-drawn carriages, wearing (often silly) outfits that hearken back to their districts’ main exports. We don’t get clear views of most of the outfits, but Katniss and Peeta wear shiny black bodysuits, lit with synthetic fire, and they look really awesome.

Even Katniss is swept up in the spectacle, caving to Peeta’s insistence that they hold hands and do victory arms all over the place.

Everybody loves their outfits, and the whole team, from Effie to Haymitch, is excited that they were so well received. Katniss snarks at Haymitch about his alcoholism (“Should you be so close to an open flame?”) and Haymitch is like “Synthetic” and starts in with a comeback, but it falters when he sees District Two’s male Tribute, Cato (Alexander Ludwig), staring like a creeper. He suggests that they all go back to their crazy awesome apartment, so they do.

Training begins the next day. The…training coordinator, I guess? informs all of the Tributes that they shouldn’t just learn about weapons, because weapons are probably the least likely way for them to die. There’s exposure, infection, dehydration, hunger, hypothermia, hyperthermia, drowning, falling facefirst into quicksand, wrong berries, sleeping bag full of scorpions, lustful bear attack, swallowing a dehydrated werewolf, etc. When she finishes detailing the dangers of a spider crawling into their mouths while they sleep, they go off to learn the ways of the wild. Cato axes the shit out of some mannequins, having been trained to do this basically from birth. Tributes from the first four districts are volunteers, called Careers, and have a generally unfair advantage in terms of skill and overall health.

Haymitch explains the Career advantage to Katniss and Peeta over dinner, and Effie tries to brighten them up by saying that they don’t always win. Just most of the time! And there’s no special treatment for Careers, they all stay in the same sort of apartment! And she doesn’t even think they get dessert, but Katniss and Peeta do!

Peeta says Katniss is awesome with a bow and arrow, and Katniss, totally misreading his compliment as him fucking with her, says he’s really strong. “He can throw a hundred-pound sack of flour over his head.” Peeta gets upset, saying he’s not going to win with flour and that his mother said Katniss was probably going to outlive him, and then runs away to leaven some bread with his tears. Katniss is like “what just happened I do not have the social skills to process this.” and leaves the table, too. Haymitch does not eat his flask, though he should.

More training montage. Some people do well [Clove (Isabelle Fuhrman), from 2, throws knives with perfect precision], and some people do not so well (a male tribute from I think 3 falls and hurts his leg). Cato aggros out on the male tribute from District 1, demanding to know where his knife is, and has to be physically pulled away. Katniss looks up into the rafters and notices the adorable female Tribute from 11, Rue (Amandla Stenberg), smiling down at everyone. She has the knife. The male tribute from 11, Thresh (Dayo Okeniyi), is the only other one to notice, and he smiles up at Rue.

Peeta is one of the contestants who does not-so-well. He falls off of a climbing net and lays on the floor until Katniss comes over and tells him to throw a heavy ball to show off his strength, because “[the other Tributes] are looking at you like a meal.” Peeta tosses the ball into a stand full of spears and knocks some of them over. LOOK OUT, WE GOT A BADASS OVER HERE. More badass than proficiency with a metal medicine ball is his proficiency with urban camouflage. He paints his arm to look like tree bark, explaining that he used to frost the cakes at the bakery. But…cake frosting is meant as ornamentation and decoration! Those must have looked terrible. Weird camouflage cakes would only be popular where I live.

The next part of the opening ceremonies involves interviews with each Tribute. Katniss is like, whoa, but my people skills! But she does all right, mainly due to Caesar Flickerman’s gently leading questions and amiable manner, and the fake flames Cinna put into her dress as a conversation topic. Everyone in the audience aaaws her story of how Prim told her to try and win, and it’s totally sick. The citizens of the Capitol are so terrible and grotesque as people, even without the anatomical changes, that I felt a really visceral disgust whenever they did anything ever. Katniss’s face reveals that she feels the same way, and she seems all too glad when the interview is over and she can go backstage to watch Peeta’s. Caesar’s angle for Peeta’s interview is that they sniff each other’s hair and talk about girls, namely how Peeta is totally in love with Katniss, allegedly. Katniss goes kind of dead behind the eyes, and as soon as Peeta walks backstage, she hulks out and jacks him up against the wall, demanding to know what the hell he’s doing.

Haymitch and Cinna drag them apart, Haymitch telling her point-blank that this is literally the only way anyone will like her. I enjoy this role reversal a whole lot, but Katniss doesn’t seem to.

Later that night, Katniss apologizes, and they have a discussion about maintaining identity in the face of all this adversity. Peeta doesn’t want to change, but Katniss “can’t afford to think like that.” The next day, the Tributes are given a chance to show the Gamemakers what they’ve got. Katniss is called in just before Peeta, and the Gamemakers are all ignoring her by this point. She announces herself, grabs the bow and an arrow, and misses her target. The Gamemakers all mean-girl her, even when she puts an arrow straight into the dummy’s heart. She gets annoyed and finally shoots a goddamn arrow straight through the apple in their roasted pig’s mouth, making everyone finally pay attention to her. She gives this amazing OG bow, thanks them for their consideration, and peaces. Well, almost peaces, as she forgets to mic drop and must awkwardly turn back to put her bow back on its stand. Seneca Crane’s Handsome Beard is contemplative.

Effie has a conniption fit upon finding all of this out, yelling that it’s bad manners. Haymitch comes in and gives Katniss a huge thumbs up, telling her that he wishes he could have been there for that awesomeness. When the scoring comes in, they all sit in front of the television, breathing easy when Peeta scores an 8 and Katniss scores an 11, which pretty much ensures that they’ll be a lot easier to sponsor.

Unfortunately, things are less hopeful when Katniss discovers that Peeta now wants to be trained separately on their last day. After all, as Haymitch says, there’s only one winner.

Game day. Katniss is dazed as Haymitch gives her the last advice he can on the way out to the hovercraft that’ll take her to the arena. Find water. Don’t be drawn in by the Cornucopia, because it’s a bloodbath. Don’t step off the pedestal, or they’ll blow her up. He pats her face fondly and sends her on her way, looking worried. On the hovercraft, a glowing tracker is inserted into her arm. We see the Gamemakers’ control center, which is actually a really cool addition that wasn’t in the book—it’s neat to see how it’s all done. Cinna meets with Katniss in a dim little room after she gets off the hovercraft, and they hug immediately. Katniss is shaking and silent as Cinna tries to calm her down by showing her the Mockingjay pin he’s hidden in her collar. He zips up her jacket, and they touch heads.

Yeah, I cried into my Icee a little bit. I can still fight you.

“I’m not allowed to bet; but if I could, I’d bet on you,” he tells her.

Oh gosh these localized thunderstorms! Right on my fat little cheeks! How crazy the weather is! Global warminssss.

Cinna sends her into the tube that brings her up to the arena surface, and they watch each other until they’re both out of sight of each other. We see the Cornucopia for the first time. It looks like a duck that fell down, and also a drunk robot, and is full of supplies and weapons. Peeta catches Katniss’s eyes and shakes his head no as the sound fades out to nothing but the timer. All of Panem watches the seconds tick down. When the buzzer sounds, the noise is still muffled. Katniss doesn’t quite know what to do; Peeta and a few others run into the woods. Everyone else fights it out at the Cornucopia, and people get slaughtered left and right. Katniss spies an unattended knapsack and grabs it, only to be attacked by a male Tribute. She’s saved when Clove from 2 throws a knife into his back, and is double-saved when Clove throws another knife that sticks into Katniss’s backpack, giving her time to run away and also giving her a weapon to use while her bow is unavailable. She keeps running until she can’t, and sits down to go through her spoils. The backpack contains rope, a coil of wire, an empty canteen, a blanket, and the knife sticking out of it. WHICH IS NOT A THROWING KNIFE OH MY GOD YOU CAN’T JUST THROW ANY OLD KNIFE WITH PERFECT ACCURACY ESPECIALLY ONE LIKE THAT IT IS CLEARLY A HAND-TO-HAND COMBAT KNIFE AAAARGH.

Katniss hears several booms from a cannon, signifying 12 people have died. She does some exploring, and comes across a water source, drinking and filling her canteen before climbing a tree to turn in for the night. She secures her legs to a branch with the rope and settles down with alarming ease. She wakes up later in the night when she smells smoke, but rolls her eyes when she discovers it’s from a campfire. Before she can sleep again, she hears the fire-setter get brutally murdered by the pack of Careers, who have teamed up. As they parade beneath her tree, reliving the kill (which Peeta had to carry out in the book), Katniss notices that Peeta is with them, and seems to be helping them find her. He leads them away, but not before Katniss hears them arguing over whether they should just kill Peeta. She frowns into the darkness. BETRAY’D. The 13 dead Tributes are displayed on a computery grid in the sky, and Katniss goes back to sleep.

The next day, Katniss does some more exploring. She runs afoul of the Gamemakers when she approaches the borders of the arena, ending up two kilometers from the nearest Tribute. Seneca Crane orders them to start a forest fire right next to her the morning after, forcing her back into bounds by banging the fireball button a billion times. One of the fireballs burns her leg badly, and she’s guided into a creek. She relaxes for a second, but the pack of Careers (and Peeta) happen to come around the corner and see her. They chase her through the forest, treeing her like a cat and taking turns trying to kill her, first by climbing (Cato falls down), then with the bow and arrow (Glimmer can’t shoot upward very well). Katniss says they should just try throwing the sword, and Peeta suggests waiting her out. The Careers agree, and Peeta and Katniss stare meaningfully at each other until the Careers go to sleep.

Haymitch watches Katniss try to clean out her burn, and immediately gets up to try and wheel/deal some potential sponsors. He’s successful, and a container full of burn salve parachutes into the tree above her, complete with a note from Haymitch, instructing her to rub it on her burn and stay alive. She obeys and goes to sleep.

In the middle of the night, Katniss hears a PSST and looks over into the next tree. Rue is there, and she points at a wasp nest a few branches up in Katniss’s tree. BUT THESE ARE NO ORDINARY WASPS. They’re tracker jackers, mutated wasps (muttations) created by the Capitol that cause pain, hallucinations, and possibly death. Rue gestures that she should drop it on the sleeping Careers, and Katniss thinks that’s a grand idea. She climbs up higher and gets to sawing AAAAAHHHHH YOU CANNOT SAW WITH A THROWING KNIFE WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION PHYSICS AAAARGH, angering the wasps enough that a few of them sting her. That’s nothing compared to the unholy reign of bee-fire that is unleashed upon the Careers as the nest falls. They run, screaming, but Glimmer from 1 falls and is overcome by the venom.

Katniss falls out of the tree, wobbling around. She pulls the bow and arrows off of Glimmer’s gross and lumpy corpse, and almost passes out right there. She hallucinates Caesar Flickerman creepin’ amongst the trees, and then sees Peeta, who yells for her to run. She does, but eventually does pass out. She dreams about her father, blowing up in a mining accident, and also dreams about her house meeting the same fate. She yells at her mother to stop staring at her and say something, and her mother tells her to run, with Peeta’s voice.

Katniss wakes up, covered in leaves that have leached the venom out of her. She stands up and finds little Rue, standing behind a tree, and they share a meal. Katniss, reminded strongly of Prim, gives Rue her last bit of cooked groosling and decides to team up so she can protect her. She asks about the dead (Glimmer and another boy), and asks about Peeta. Rue smiles and little-sisters Katniss, asking if it’s true that they’re in loooooove. Katniss grins and changes the subject—they come up with a plan to take the Careers’ supplies away from them. It’s all piled up down at the lake, so all they’ve got to do is create a distraction and blow it the hell up with their own land mines. They talk about an all-clear signal, four simple notes to be passed along to each other via mockingjay. They go their separate ways.

Rue burns a bunch of greenstick leaves to send up smoke like a campfire, which prompts the Careers to leave their hoard. They put the boy with the bum leg in charge of it, but he is woefully underqualified for the position. The female tribute from 6, Foxface, watched the mines as they were being set, and manages to hop her way through and steal some stuff before running off into the woods. The boy follows her. Katniss sees a bag of apples, and shoots at it. She rips the bag on the second shot, and the apples all tumble onto the mines, blowing everything the hell up. Including Katniss, unfortunately, and her ears go dead when the explosion hits her. She drags herself back into the woods just as the Careers come running back.

Cato goes crazy(er), snapping the boy’s neck with a crunch that’s audible even with muffled sound. Katniss regains her balance and whistles her four-note tune. She doesn’t get an answering four notes, and gets worried. She finds the second pile that Rue was supposed to light, but it hasn’t been touched and Rue is nowhere to be found. Fearing the worst, she’s confirmed in her fears when she hears Rue screaming for help. Without a second thought, she runs to her and finds her on the ground, covered in a net. She cuts Rue out of it, and Rue stands up with her. Katniss whirls around to see the male from District 1 there with a spear, which he throws as she lets off an arrow and kills him. She turns around.

The spear hit Rue in the chest, and Rue is pulling it out, in shock. Katniss catches her before she falls down, despondent, and sits with Rue’s head in her lap, stroking her face and hair while they both cry. Rue tells Katniss to win, and asks her to sing. Katniss sings the song she sang to Prim, her voice shaky. Rue focuses on the blurring, sparkling sky beyond her head. She dies quietly. Katniss closes Rue’s eyes and jacket, setting her down gently in the grass. She collects flowers and surrounds her with them, placing some in her hands and holding three fingers up to the nearest camera in a salute. In District 11, the gathered crowd returns the salute. One man stops early, turns, and starts to break things. The crowd joins in, destroying equipment and fighting Peacekeepers with their fists. The Peacekeepers bring in a hovercraft to suppress the riot while Katniss cries alone in the forest.

(In the book, the flowers were significant because it meant that Rue’s body couldn’t be shown to Panem, as the flowers would look like a contestant was being glorified. Also, District 11 banded together and sent Katniss a loaf of their signature bread as a sponsor gift and a show of support.)

Seneca Crane is beyond pissed about all this rioting nonsense, and apparently wants to just kill Katniss outright. Haymitch talks him out of it, convincing him that it would be better to give people something to root for than something to rebel against.

Katniss travels some more, listless and heading toward the creek/river again. An announcement is made that it’s totally cool if two Tributes win, provided they’re from the same district, and Katniss has some renewed vigor. She literally stumbles onto Peeta, who grabs her foot so she doesn’t stomp his junk by accident. He has painted himself with all the colors of the wind mossy/rocky ground around the bank, and also has a sword wound to the thigh. Katniss helps him to a nearby cave, trying to tend to his wounds. He starts in with the death confessions, like how he feels bad about not physically handing her the bread and also he followed her home from school every day. She’s like “…ick. Shut up now.” and kisses him on the cheek to try and shut him up. She lays down with him, and they try to sell the whole lovebirds thing. They do a good enough job of it that a parachute containing soup broth arrives (along with a sassy note: “You call that a kiss? –H”). Katniss feeds it to Peeta and kisses him for fake-real, right on the mouth, as it is also announced that there’s going to be a “feast” back at the Cornucopia–each survivor needs something, and it’s going to be there. They just have to go and get it. Peeta’s not into the idea, so Katniss is like “yeah totally I’ll stay, wevs.” and waits until he has fallen into an infected fever-sleep to sneak off.

She waits in the bushes, watching the bags labelled with District numbers. Foxface runs out of the trees and grabs a bag, disappearing again. Thinking it’s safe-ish, Katniss runs out and grabs hers, only to be taken down when Clove throws a goddamn knife at her face. It hits her forehead, leaving a nasty cut, and she tries to shoot Clove. She doesn’t manage it, and Clove wrestles her down. She taunts Katniss about how the Career pack killed Rue, and how she’s going to cut Katniss up, too. Before she can kill her, Thresh storms out and shoves Clove up against the Cornucopia, demanding to know if Clove was the one who killed Rue. Clove denies it, screaming for Cato to help her, but Thresh slams her head against the metal and kills her. He looks at Katniss, tells her that it was only because she tried to help Rue, and disappears with both remaining bags.

Ugh, I’ve seen this twice, and both times I’ve heard people cheer when Clove dies. If you’re happy that any Tribute dies, you’ve missed the point. The Careers are victims, just as much as anyone else. Katniss is our hero, yes, and we want her to win, but when you’re trapped in a maze with the devil, your enemy ain’t the devil. Your enemy is the one who trapped you. (Or so I’ve heard. I just wish I could remember where I heard it.)

Just, like, don’t cheer for the deaths of children, even fictional ones. It’s creepy.

Katniss takes her bag back to Peeta, where he bitches until she puts the medicine inside it on his leg. He then convinces her to let him put it on her forehead. In my notes, I have EROTIC APPLICATION OF UNGUENT written in big bolded letters, and it would be very embarrassing if anyone found it. Not because EROTIC APPLICATION OF UNGUENT but because all of my other notes are just lol gale.

By morning, both of them are healed up, and they decide to search for food. Katniss gives a wonderful “are you shitting me?” look when Peeta jokingly says he’ll take the bow. He decides it would be wiser to go find some berries. Unfortunately, he can’t even do that right, as they’re only separated for a little while before a cannon goes off and Katniss loses her mind trying to find Peeta. She finds his coat covered in berries on the ground, and when she finds him, she yells a lot until her voice gets creaky and slaps the poisonous berries he’s collected out of his hand. She hugs him fiercely, terrified at the thought of losing someone else she appointed herself to protect. Jennifer Lawrence is really fucking fantastic, y’all.

They come across Foxface, who has eaten some of the berries and subsequently expired. (My friend Alex told me that there’s speculation re: her maybe committing suicide, because someone as careful as her wouldn’t have made that mistake. I don’t know if I buy it, but it’s an interesting theory.) Katniss collects the remaining berries from Foxface’s hand, considering their potential future usage on Cato. The sky begins to darken suddenly as the Gamemakers decide to crescendo event the shit out of the arena, using a bunch of vicious wolflike mutant muttations. Peeta asks what’s going on. In the distance, we hear snarls and growls and Thresh dying, followed by a cannon. “The finale.” Katniss spits, and draws her bow. They creep through the woods, surrounded by scary noise and darkness, until one of the muttations jumps out of the underbrush at them and lands on Peeta. Katniss shoots it off of him, and they take off toward the Cornucopia.

By the time they reach it, there are like six muttations after them, and also Cato is there and having the most inconveniently timed identity crisis of all eternity. Peeta, Katniss, and Cato fight. It’s a pity that the scene is so dark, because the fight is wonderful—they’re fighting each other like the scared, confused kids that they are, artlessly and only because the alternative is something even worse. Cato gets his arm around Peeta’s neck as Katniss nocks an arrow and points it at him. Cato is bloody and just as scared and confused as the other two, only his confusion is coming from the fact that he’s spent his whole life becoming his district’s most successful murderer, and that’s just not quite enough to sustain a person. It’s sad, and Katniss feels for him at least a little, but she does what she has to when Cato threatens to break Peeta’s neck so he can feel useful just one more time.

Katniss shoots Cato’s hand, allowing Peeta to knock him down into the middle of the muttations, who promptly start tearing him apart. Katniss shoots him as a mercy kill, probably through the eye, and he dies. The muttations leave and the sun comes out. Peeta and Katniss jump off of the Cornucopia, relieved.

Katniss tenses up when another announcement is made in order to cancel out the two-winners announcement. Peeta immediately tells Katniss to kill him, but she is having none of that shit. She pulls the berries out of her pocket and gives half to Peeta, and they both prepare to commit suicide in order to defy the Capitol.

They’re both hastily announced as the victors of the 74th Hunger Games.

It’s awesome party time in the Capitol, but Haymitch and Katniss are having serious discussion time on the roof of the Tributes’ quarters. Katniss isn’t as scared of the Capitol as she should be, so Haymitch tells her she has to lie, lie, lie her ass off and claim that she was so crazy with love for Peeta that she was compelled to do what she did. She agrees, and the saccharine joint interview she and Peeta give the next day seems to convince everyone but President Snow, who is the most angry tiara-placer to ever place a tiara upon someone’s head. Katniss doesn’t let him stare her down, but she looks concerned when he finally gets out of her face.

Seneca Crane is locked alone in a room with a bowl full of poisonous nightlock berries.

On the train ride back to District 12, Katniss and Peeta have the awkward “Well, now what?” non-talk. Katniss wants to try and forget what happened; Peeta doesn’t. Considering the huge, adoring crowd gathered outside the train, it doesn’t quite look like things are going to go Katniss’s way.