While Suzanne Collins’ three-book series The Hunger Games has often been billed as the next Twilight thanks to its popularity in the young-adult crowd, anyone who’s read the post-apocalyptic trilogy knows that such comparisons couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, the section where you’ll find the two series in a book store is just about the only thing The Hunger Games and Twilight have in common.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world where the government forces children from each of 12 “districts” to kill each other in a competition for valuable resources, The Hunger Games relegates romance to a supporting role in the narrative while focusing on brutal, life-or-death survival in a world manufactured to ensure competitors meet the bloodiest ends possible.
With “The Hunger Games” movie arriving in theaters this week, it seemed like a good time to tackle some of the misconceptions about the series head-on, and offer some (occasionally tongue-in-cheek) reasons why the premiere of Collins’ trilogy on the big screen should be a red-letter day for guys who love gritty action movies and wild sci-fi adventures, too.
Take one part “Battle Royale,” add a pinch of “The Running Man,” shake violently
One of the strongest cases to be made for The Hunger Games crossing the divide between gender stereotypes is that the story feels like something inspired by that period during the late ’70s and ’80s that gave us films like “Escape From New York” and “The Road Warrior.” The world of The Hunger Games is a bleak version of our own, set at a time after war and other calamities send us scrambling back to the dark ages. Sure, one or two districts live in a utopian, jet-car paradise, but the rest of the world huddles in the dark and dies starving. What’s more, The Hunger Games takes that dystopian ’80s vibe and injects it with some of the slick action and edginess that’s common in some of the last few decades’ most memorable future-gone-bad tales (a la Battle Royale and Children of Men). Basically, it’s the best of both worlds — but they’re not the sort of worlds you’d like to visit for too long.
Insert quarter to continue killing each other…
Gamers should feel right at home when it comes to the pacing of The Hunger Games and the way in which the win-or-die competitions are presented in the series. Without giving too much of the story away, competitors in The Hunger Games are forced to not only kill each other, but also to survive the traps within each game environment. Like the levels of a video game, the setting of each competition is a carefully manufactured stage, filled with different types of environmental obstacles.
On top of that, the children from each district typically specialize in one type of skill or another, adding another layer of complexity to the competition. (Can the kids who grew up in the lumber district beat the kids from the mining district?) Much like the classes of characters you create in a good role-playing game, each competitor in The Hunger Games needs to make the best use of his or her skill set to survive.
She gives love a bad name (and that’s a good thing)
Unlike many of the books classified as young-adult fare, The Hunger Games features a protagonist who couldn’t care less about catching a boy’s attention or falling in love. More of a Mad Max character than a Bella Swan or Sookie Stackhouse, Katniss Everdeen is a female lead who can “man up” with the best action heroes when necessary, and knows better than to get lost in someone’s eyes when there’s a job to be done. Basically, Katniss is the teenage-girl version of hard-luck “Die Hard” hero John McClane.
Mutant dogs, acid clouds, and evil monkeys, oh my!
Remember those environmental “traps” I mentioned? Well, along with natural dangers like quicksand or rockslides, the children competing in the games also have to contend with an array of unnatural threats that seem to come from the depths of pulp sci-fi and horror tales. Imagine a 12-year-old girl being chased by a pack of mutated dogs with razor-sharp teeth and you’ll start to get the picture here (and it’s not a pretty picture). As if a bunch of kids killing each other in a crazy, televised contest wasn’t enough, The Hunger Games pushes things to the next level, and will provide a pleasant surprise to sci-fi or fantasy fans expecting a typical young-adult adventure.
You saw Jennifer Lawrence at last year’s Oscars, right?
Whether it’s men or women that get you hot and bothered, there’s no denying the beauty of “The Hunger Games” actress Jennifer Lawrence. While this last point only applies to the upcoming big-screen adaptation of The Hunger Games, it’s an important point to make. Simply put, Lawrence has achieved the sort of visual appeal that transcends gender preference and puts her in the realm of universal hotness. Seriously, folks, just look at her. And she’s a pretty great actress, too — which is nice.