“Hunger Games: Catching Fire” Review: President Snow is the Worst Dictator Ever

Acculturated goes against the grain in a review of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire:

I’m sorry. I’m just not buying it.

I don’t believe The Hunger Games. I’ve now seen the second film in the series, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and I have the same impression that I did when I saw the first film. The premise of The Hunger Games is flawed – flawed enough to make the entire story unbelievable.

Of course it’s just a movie, and obviously fiction, but even fantasies have to adhere to some basic coherence. And the fascist despots in The Hunger Games apparently have no knowledge of how tyrannies typically rule.

Generally speaking, totalitarian societies prefer not to control their populations by violently attacking and murdering children and adolescents. Most of these cultures try and coerce the children to love the State more than their own families. They flatter the children, brainwash them in school, and talk about the bright future that awaits them. To randomly pit them against each other in a game to the death is just asking for rebellion.

I could not agree more. Look, I thoroughly enjoyed the first two Hunger Games movies because they’re well-made movies that are fun to watch. (The second one more so than the first, because it’s obvious they spent way more money on Catching Fire. Bigger, better special effects; more convincing crowds in the crowd scenes; and the bad guy army has full-on stormtrooper armor now, whereas in the first movie they had white motorcycle helmets and chest protectors from a baseball catcher’s uniform.)

However, I can’t get into these movies like the hardcore fans do, because to lose yourself in a fictional world you have to buy the premise, and I just don’t buy the premise.

The premise is that the brutally calculating President Snow has iron-fisted control over the nation of Panem, to the extent that every year he can require each of his territories to send two of their children to fight to the death, and they’ll do it. But in practice his governing style is long on the “brutal” and short on the “calculating.” His dictator playbook apparently consists entirely of the following:

  • Step 1: If peasants step out of line, whip them.
  • Step 2: If step one doesn’t work, whip them harder. Maybe shoot some.

He sends the supposedly cowed heroine Katniss on a tour of the districts, ostensibly to distract people from how totally miserable and hopeless their lives are, and every stop turns into an open show of defiance and/or a riot, and yet the tour continues! Sure, people get beaten and shot every time, but I guess the president figures that’s just the cost of doing business.

Stuff like this makes it tough to buy President Snow as the evil mastermind he’s made out to be. I find it hard to believe that he ever gained this level of control. He is just bad at being a dictator. In dictator school, he would be held back a year, and the other dictators would hang him from a coat hook by his underpants.

2 thoughts on ““Hunger Games: Catching Fire” Review: President Snow is the Worst Dictator Ever

  1. I tend to agree, though my biggest sticking point is that they show a Capital City who’s population dwarfs that of the districts they show. That everyone in the district comes together for the Reaping for the names to be drawn implies a population in the low thousands at the very best. There would be now way the districts would be productive enough to provide for the dead weight of the Capital parasites. But it is a Youth novel so a good deal can be overlooked…

    You might also consider that Snow is the end product of a system set up 75 years previous. Like the Egyptian Pharaohs and the latter day aristocracy there is a lot of inbreeding and corresponding reduction in intelligence. He’s smarter than most of the current political class but wouldn’t know how to start things up from scratch…

  2. Yeah, I’m not saying any of this ruins the books or the movies. Also, the story is supposedly being told through the eyes of a 16 year old girl, so you could assume that that keeps us from seeing everything.

    But from a story-telling perspective, the bad guys are just so shallow and dumb that I can’t get past it. They do have a pretty weak empire if it can be brought down with some poison berries.

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