Speculative Fiction Friday: The Hunger Games

hunger gamesNormally, I like to report on speculative fiction films that are obscure, but The Hunger Games has gone rather mainstream. I was always surprised when this book became a huge phenomenon.

If you aren’t familiar with The Hunger Games, it has a dark premise for a book targeted for younger readers. It takes place in a world where some great war has occurred, and the rest of the world is split up into Districts. These districts are ruled by a tyrannical government centralized at Capital, and every year, Capital holds a Hunger Games. Two teenagers from each District are placed in a special arena, and the last of the twenty-four that is still alive wins.

The main character is Katniss Everdeen, and when her sister, Primrose, is chosen in the Capital lottery to play these Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to take her place. This sets her on a path where she becomes the ultimate reality star, and, as you might expect, there is a lot that has to happen before Katniss can play said games. There’s a Twilight-ish love-triangle involved with Gale, a man that Katniss loves from her own District, and Peeta, the other Hunger Games competitor who loves Katniss.

I read this book before I saw the movie, and I will have to say that the film was pretty accurate translation, with some exceptions. In the book, Katniss tells the story through first-person narration, which probably means she isn’t going to die as quickly as her Hunger Games competitors. The director of The Hunger Games movie apparently couldn’t resist showing what was happening outside the Hunger Games arena, even though the reader usually has to imagine this in the book.

I found that the book and the movie seem to go out of its way to show that Katniss doesn’t become a killer. The only time that she kills in The Hunger Games is in her defense, and she never just picks people off like a sniper. I never felt that Katniss really feels any guilt over her killing, but perhaps this is the point. After all, a violent society might consider the least violent a good citizen.

What I most admire about the story is that it takes place in a society with a sick bloodsport, and yet everybody just goes along with it. It doesn’t sound like even the President of this tyrannical society thinks that the Hunger Games as anything more than some kind of necessary evil. I suppose the lesson of The Hunger Games shows how humanity is quite evil, and willing to embrace bloodsport in spite of the obvious consequences.

I will have to say that I have read the last two books in The Hunger Games trilogy, and I found that they were lacking in comparison to the first. It reminded me of films that have the tacked-on trilogy thing going on, like The Matrix and The Pirates of the Caribbean. I have a feeling that the Catching Fire and Mockingjay films will comes off like that, but they will still make money.

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