I came across The Hunger Games after a suggestion from a friend and sat down on a Sunday afternoon reading the entire thing in a sitting. I had heard that it was considered ‘Young Adult’ fiction, but I was surprised as how cruel and violent the world these characters lived in really was. This isn’t the kind of fiction I would have been guided towards as a young adult. I’m not entirely sure how I would have handled it. However as a fully-grown adult who often wonders what a dystopian future would be like, I was hooked. I think in many ways I appreciate these kinds of stories because they seem outlandish and entirely unrealistic at first glance, but after some thought I realize maybe it’s not all that crazy. Is it really so hard to think of a future where the government keeps control of the people by making random citizens fight to the death? It’s happened before, who is to say it couldn’t happen again? Not now, mind you, but the future is a very unsure thing and seems to be changing drastically by the day. So the idea of the book, as insane as it may seem at first, isn’t entirely impossible.
When I found out the series was to be translated to movies, I was mostly confused. How does one portray such a cruel and unforgiving world in a PG-13 movie aimed at a younger audience? It surprisingly portrays it pretty accurately. This is one of the most violent PG-13 rated movies I’ve seen. The bloodshed and death is there. It’s dealt with in very creative ways. During one particularly cruel scene involving lots of casualties the sound was dropped out, replaced instead of a dull droning sound. Without the sound to guide you the visuals really become far more powerful. It helps to convey the frenetic and stressful feeling surrounding these kids in their fight to simply survive. The movie doesn’t shy away from strategic amounts of blood; however it wisely doesn’t go into full blown gore. It’s a fine line to travel. Going too little would be a disservice to the story while going too far would desensitize the audience to what was happening. Doing so would fly in the face of the purpose of the book and film.
The story told is one of a government oppressing those they govern over. It’s a story of rebellion in attempt to have a better life. The people in this world are ruled over by an evil president, played by Donald Sutherland, who forces the nation to sacrifice children to remind them what would happen if they ever fought back. Eventually something has to give, though.
Sutherland in particular has been rather outspoken on the story and what he hopes it will achieve. When asked why he thought these books and this movie could “change” things he replied: “It could maybe motivate or activate young people who by and large have been dormant. It could make them stand up and realize the political environment they’re in and compel them to change it. Whether they change to the right or the left – I don’t know. But at least do something because something must be done.”
In the 1960s the anti-war movement swept across the nation. People unhappy with the way the government was handling conflict in Vietnam stood up for what they believed in. Yet here we are 50 years later and we find ourselves involved in several wars and in the middle of a debt crisis. People are fed up and starting to lash out. In 2011 the Occupy Wall Street movement gained a surprising amount of traction in both side and media awareness. Copycat groups sprung up all over the country with a simple message: We need change. In the end their efforts were fruitless because while demanding change, they offered no real alternatives. It was a spark, however. While what’s happening in our world, and indeed around the world, isn’t as extreme as what is described in the book the results could grow to become the same. A spark could grow to become an inferno. People need to be more aware of what is happening in the world around them and take a more active stance in fighting for what they truly believe is right.
If we, as a people, don’t then there’s no telling where we will be ten years down the road. Fifty years on and this could be an entirely different world. If we allow ourselves to be controlled by a political process, then what’s to stop that process from taking advantage of us?
So I guess I hope Donald Sutherland is right. Hollywood releases smaller ‘message’ films all the time. They don’t end up on a lot of screens and don’t get seen by many people. This is not one of those. This is a blockbuster with a message. It’s a nice change of pace to see a giant movie that’s less about robots fighting in the streets and more about people standing up for what’s right. And maybe, just maybe, this can be something that mobilizes people. Or at the very least makes them take a second look at their surroundings.