So I finally saw “The Hunger Games,” and can I just say, whoa. I had not read the book or any of the other subsequent books in Suzanne Collins’ wildly popular trilogy. (I know, I know – don’t throw things at me.) So, other than its basic premise, I did not know what to except. Or, more precisely, I did not expect to react so viscerally to the film’s premise. Without reading the books, on paper “The Hunger Games” seems like it might be a just a simple, bloody game of survival. Man-against-man – or more precisely child against child – with only one left standing. But after seeing the films – and I’m sure even more so for those who read the series – what strikes me instead is the fight against inequality. Because, woo doggie, is the uprising coming or what?
In fact, what the first movie did more than anything was make me excited about what is coming next. And that something is rebellion. The rich v. terribly oppressed themes were quite interesting. What the best dystopian stories do is hold up a potent mirror to our current state and worst impulses. Would humanity every really devolve to a society where the richest sacrifice the poorest children in bloodsport as entertainment for the masses? One certainly hopes not. But in other ways, to stretch the metaphor, we are a nation already that sacrifices the poorest children to the most inadequate healthcare, the worst educations, the most environmental violence, etc. Again, I’m stretching. No one is televising 12-year-old attack each other with machetes. Still the most startling futuristic tales have enough echoes of our current discords to make us squirm uncomfortably in our seats.
So then what helps make this story special is not just the glimpse of an unsettling future, but the promise of hard-fought salvation. And when that salvation comes in the form of Katniss Everdeen, it becomes quite extraordinary indeed. Tough, resourceful, savvy, practical, brave and determined, she’s everything you want in a hero and what we so rarely find in our big-screen heroines. Most female leads are so very concerned about you liking them. In fact, her struggle with getting people to like her is a theme in the film (and I assume book). So while she learns to play the game, she knows it is still just that. Like I was saying, extraordinary.
A lot was resting on the more-than-capable shoulders of Jennifer Lawrence to turn this series into a hit. And, man, did she ever deliver. Biggest opening weekend for a non-sequel (behind only “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” and “The Dark Knight” in all-time opening weekends). Highest grossing action film with a female heroine already. So now the test becomes if Jennifer can continue to be the champion we’ve dreamed of. If the oppressed can overthrow their oppressors. If we can save a fractured future and find a small piece of our more perfect union in our present. Interesting stuff, I tell you. I feel the odds are definitely in our favor.