I saw the big finale to the “Hunger Games” film franchise last night and pretty much left the theater feeling the way I expected to feel: emotionally drained. I’m no film critic, so I’m not going to “review” the film, but I want to talk about it and the series as a whole, both as books and films.
I enjoyed the final film in the series, but my opinion ever since they announced the split of the third installment into two movies was that it was a bad idea. I adore the first two films (you can read my post about Catching Fire here). I was pretty confident that the last two would be on par with the first two, excepting that they would have been better as one film. After now seeing the final installment, I still believe that the split did more harm than good. The third film in the series is just a drawn-out exposition of the fourth film, which has all the action. But I still very much like the film series as a whole because of the way it captures my emotions.
I get pretty emotional over these movies; I think the actors have a lot to do with that because they are so damn good – I mean, when J-Law cries, I cry. But I also think there is something more effective about watching the story play out as an outsider than getting the story from Katniss’s perspective, like in the books. I get more attached the the characters because I am free to have my own thoughts about them. Not that I’m not free to have my own thoughts about them in the books, but it’s limiting to see everything through Katniss’s narration. I feel more for her in the film because I’m an empathetic, outside viewer; in first-person narration, I’m stuck inside her head, reading it as her.
But what I really love about The Hunger Games as a series (books or films) is that it is a true allegorical dystopia of our time. I look at the giant surge of dystonian novels in recent years, and I think this one does the best job of being an actual comment on today’s society. Granted, the only other series in the dystopia explosion I’ve read is the Divergent series, I just don’t think the others come as close to being a symbolic take on the terrors in our world. (Note that I’m only talking YA here, not adult dystopia of late). I mean, the society in Divergent is all about genetic cleansing, but how close are we actually to having that become a reality? It’s more like science fiction. What makes The Hunger Games so poignant is its depiction of actual real-world problems in an exaggerated context. Hunger, poverty, social and economic injustice and inequality, oppressive governments, systematic killings, police brutality, overbearing and manipulative media, etc., etc., etc. It’s all there, and it’s all real.
I think is this what ultimately makes the series stand out. I’m hoping that as the years pass, this series remains a classic of its time. It’s hard to say whether or not that will happen; the same can be said about many books of YA fiction, and there is no telling how the recent YA Renaissance is going to be remembered in literary history and what books will be its representatives in the canon. But I hope The Hunger Games makes it. The best dytopian novels are not those that present a possible future, but those that represent our actual present.
This post is partially inspired by The Harry Potter Alliance’s “Odds in Our Favor” campaign, which you should check out. (The HPA is a non-profit that fights all sorts of real-world battles in the name of different fictional stories).