Looking Back At The Hunger Games

Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks, left) and Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in THE HUNGER GAMES.

The Hunger Games were a trilogy of very successful young adult books that were adapted into four very successful films. The books and films were set in a future almost post-apocalyptic society, life is hard for most people, with shortages and back-breaking labour. Perhaps worst of all the society is based on a yearly ritual – two children from every district are sent to compete in The Hunger Games, a brutal violent fight to the death where only one child survives. A new film set in The Hunger Games world is set for release later this year, The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds and Snakes so this a good time to give people an idea of what happened in the previous films.

Spoiler Warning – massive spoilers ahead for all Hunger Games films

The Hunger Games

Katniss volunteering //credit: The Hunger Games, Lionsgate

The film’s central character is Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a very capable young woman, who essentially is the person running her family, looking after both her mother and little sister. Katniss is a skilled hunter and brings in food from illegally going on hunting trips and trading it for things they need. When the selection for The Hunger Games happens it is Katniss’ little sister who is randomly selected and so Katniss volunteers to go in her place.

Throughout her first Hunger Games Katniss refuses to play the game of the authorities, she immediately heads out into the wilderness, away from the other competitors, not wanting to fight anyone. She meets Rue, a 12 year-old girl also competing and they help each other, and when Rue is killed it is a devastating moment for Katniss. These Hunger Games end with joint winners of Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), District 12’s other tribute after they agree to both take their own lives so there would be no winner and ruin The Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Former victors Finnick, Peeta and Katniss //credit: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Lionsgate

With rising unrest in the country, President Snow makes plans for a special Hunger Games coincidentally every 25th Hunger Games has a change to the rules. This time the change is tributes will be drawn from previous winners – this means Katniss will have to compete. There is a rising feeling of injustice amongst the tributes and some of those involved in the games. The games are incredibly brutal and heartbreaking and shows the strong relationships that exist between some of the victors. As the height of the fighting rebels rescue Katniss, who has become a symbol of the rebellion and it is revealed many of the other victors have been working together for her rescue.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 and 2

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
The end // Credit: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, Lionsgate

With a full-blown rebellion underway there are no Hunger Games but as the rebel forces move on to the Capital it is announced that the people who make the games have booby-trapped much of the city, almost making the Capital a huge version of the games. The rebellion is led by District 13, which was believed to have been destroyed years before, and wants to capitalise on Katniss’s connection with the people.

The World

The world of The Hunger Games is an interesting one, the nation is Panem (built on the ruins of America), and clearly some terrible calamity has befallen society. The country is divided into 12 districts and the Capital, Katniss is from District 12. Most of the districts are known for a particular industry, such as mining in District 12. The country is ruled by President Snow, a ruthless dictator, and their rule is best shown in the Hunger Games, brutal and harsh but with a clever understanding of how the games help him control society.

The fabulously dressed Effie Trinket - The Hunger Games
The fabulously dressed Effie Trinket // Credit: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Lionsgate

The Capital is fascinating. Whilst most of the districts are desperately poor Capital is exceedingly wealthy, drowning in a decadence that puts 18th Century France to shame. Indeed the fashions of the Capital are reminiscent of old aristocracies, elaborate, colourful, often ridiculous. There is talk of eating so much that you take an emetic to throw up so you can eat some more – this while people starve in the other districts. Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) is a good example of a Capital citizen (she is the handler of the District 12 tributes), smiley, happy, shallow, dressed in elaborate and impractical clothing with makeup covering her entire face. Interestingly Effie is not cruel, she is not a bad person as such, and is clearly upset when the “rules” of the Hunger Games are broken to punish Katniss. Another interesting character is Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), the TV host of the Hunger Games – again, not someone who seems actively evil, when interviewing the tributes he wants them to do well, he wants to build them up. Through Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) the audience sees what happens to the victors, ostensibly set up for a life of luxury as their reward, he is racked by guilt and trauma. Haymitch is the only other District 12 victor and so coaches Katniss and Peeta but is often disagreeable with a severe drinking problem.

President Snow - The Hunger Games
President Snow // Credit: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Lionsgate

President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is the primary antagonist, a scheming ruthless politician, running the country through a combination of fear, violence and carefully managed hope. Snow is the central character of the upcoming film, a prequel showing his rise to power.

The Hunger Games are excellent young-adult adventure films that manage to walk the fine line of dealing with such a dark concept without tipping over into Battle Royale horror or failing to deal with the sinister implications of the world. There hasn’t been space in this article to get into the relationship between Katniss and Peeta, the great performances and the fantastic cast with a load of Oscar winners, or The Running Man style television spectacle of the whole thing.

Also Read: Why We Are In A (New) Golden Age of Fantasy Television

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Posted by
Richard Norton

Gentleman, podcaster and pop culture nerd, I love talking and writing about pretty much all pop culture.