Sunday, April 15, 2012

Where Hunger fits into the Games

Let me get this out of the way right off the bat. I absolutely loved The Hunger Games movie. I liked the book a lot, too. Maybe not as much as wife, because I didn't immediately read the rest of Suzanne Collins' trilogy. I will, because I won't go to the movies before reading the book. It's kind of a rule I have.

There are a million reviews, mostly positive, of the film, so I'll skip that. Instead, I want to talk about where The Hunger Games fits into the subgenre of post-apocalyptic games to the death movies.

There's part of me that wants to wait even longer to write this, because I will be reading The Running Man soon. So I'll just talk about the movie instead of the book. But that means I have to talk about Battle Royale first.

The Japanese film Battle Royale came out in 2000, based on a manga that started in 1996.  Battle Royale pits schoolchildren against each other in a fight to the death until only two remain who then try to escape from this alternate Japan to the United States.

Similarities to The Hunger Games, sure. But guess what? In 1987, The Running Man, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, hit theaters. Convicted criminals fight for their lives for the entertainment of a cowed populace. Ah-nold fights trained killers instead of other criminals (or kids) but the idea of deathsport as entertainment is not new.

Ever see Death Race 2000, released in 1975? Killing for the entertainment of a post-apocalyptic America. Hell, even the remake came out in 2008, same year as The Hunger Games was released into a world of Twi-hard teens.

The point is, this isn't anything new. What's new-- and what makes The Hunger Games stand out-- are the characters. Collins, along with her co-screenwriters, filled this archetypal world with engaging and interesting people. Nobody gave a shit about Buzzsaw or Dynamo when Ah-nold whacked them. Not to piss off the otaku (that's a hardcore fan of anime) or any one else with a major boner for all things Japanese, but I don't remember anyone's names from the one time I watched Battle Royale. (Yeah, but I am a big enough nerd to remember some of the costumed killers in The Running Man.) It will be a long time before I forget Katniss, Rue, Peeta, Cato, and Haymitch.

Nothing new under the sun. Collins even said in a 2010 Publisher's Weekly interview that the Greek legend of Theseus and the gladitorial games played a part in the development of The Hunger Games.

In other words, The Hunger Games is an outstanding notch in the canon of post-apocalypic death games.

1 comment:

  1. Hey TJ,

    Mike here. I just wanted to point out that I have seen all the examples you wrote about and agree wholeheartedly. Every time I see a new movie about people being hunted or forced to kill each other for sport, I can't help but think of The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell.