The 2010s spawned dozens of book-to-film adaptations, mostly based on young adult books. There was “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” (2010), “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” (2013), “The Maze Runner” (2014), “Divergent” (2014) and much more. Of all the popular adaptations, few have stood the test of time and most remain forgettable, with fans of the books remembering them as disappointing. Yet one adaptation stands out among the rest as impactful and memorable, while also having received critical and public acclaim — “The Hunger Games” (2012-2015).
The plot of Franchise “The Hunger Games” is well known today. Set in a dystopian America divided into 12 districts, each year one male tribute and one female tribute between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are chosen to compete in the Hunger Games.. In the first film, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her sister’s place for the 74th Hunger Games. Once at the Games, Katniss struggles to survive and rejoin her family, sparking a revolution along the way.
The Games symbolize survival as each tribute fights to make it out alive, but on a deeper level they embody the consequences of hierarchy and corruption. The 12 districts each differ in wealth, with Districts 1 and 2 being the wealthiest and District 12 being the poorest. The disparity of wealth between neighborhoods and the differences between the opportunities of inhabitants of lower neighborhoods compared to upper neighborhoods is a theme that can be applied to today’s society.
Moreover, the Games showcase the corruption of the Capitol. As the head of all districts and the seat of government, the Capitol allows the Games to continue as its leaders support it to honor the anniversary of the original rebellion. The real purpose of the Games, however, is to keep the districts in fear of the Capitol so that there won’t be another rebellion, while providing entertainment for the wealthy citizens of the Capitol.. The concept of the lower class competing for the entertainment of the wealthy is a powerful message and one that has been reproduced in the media many times, most recently in the hit the Netflix show, “Squid Game” (2021).
The franchise’s most formative moment occurs in the first movie — The Death of Rue. Rue (Amandla Stenberg) was Katniss’ ally from District 11 who helped rescue Katniss and healed her after she was attacked by highly poisonous wasps. When Rue is murdered, Katniss is overwhelmed with sadness and guilt. Rue’s death shows that tributes are more than just pawns in a game for the Capitol. Rue symbolizes the young and innocent lives that are lost when governments abuse their power. His death also serves as a catalyst for the revolution. Right after his death, the film shows a montage of riots in District 11. The idea that revolutions start because of the loss of innocent lives is mirrored in real life, with resemblances to movements such as Black Lives Matter and March for Our Lives.
Along with the idea of a revolution, “The hunger Gamesdissects the duality of hope and the manipulation of hope. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) said in the movie “To hope. It’s the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope works. A lot of hope is dangerous. Snow uses Hope to keep the neighborhoods obedient, while Katniss unwittingly uses Hope, after Rue’s death, to spark a revolution. The juxtaposition of hope in the film forces the viewer to think about how hope can lead to deception, but also has the power to spark real change.
Which makes “The hunger Games” successful and what has allowed its popularity to continue 10 years after its initial release is that the story, especially the politics it contains, can be viewed through a modern, realistic lens, despite its be a fiction. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter where the film’s director, Gary Ross, reflects on the film, he says, “The themes of this film are only more resonant now than when we made it.” The story of “The hunger Games” is rooted in survival, revolution, corruption, and love, all of which are themes that can be seen in different aspects of today’s society. It is likely that “The hunger Games” will continue to be enjoyed by generations to come, as it not only serves as political and social commentary, but also tells a powerful and compelling story.