'Hunger Games': Which dystopian property does it most resemble?
“The Hunger Games’” author Suzanne Collins has said that the myth of Theseus inspired her story of Katniss Everdeen bobbing, weaving and slaying for the entertainment of a depraved public. But Collins’ novels, and the Jennifer Lawrence film that will mint gajillions from it this weekend, call to mind plenty of more modern properties. Which one does it most, um, pay tribute to? The arguments, then a poll.
"The Running Man:" Collins may have held up a mirror-of-the-grotesque to our current reality-television culture. But writing as Richard Bachman, Stephen King anticipated that culture with his 1982 novella about a man who joins a life-and-death game show in a dystopian America. Seeking medicine for his sick daughter, Ben Richards (thin and weak, nothing like the superhuman Governator-to-be who would incarnate him in the 1987 movie) goes on a hair-raising run while a television-watching nation throws back some popcorn. There’s even a similar play on the government-backed Gamemakers: the government-backed Games Networks.
"Battle Royale:" The cult Japanese novel (1999) and movie (2000) has already gotten the Web-erati hot and bothered, especially with Collins’ saying she hadn’t read the book or seen the film. It’s easy to imagine why she might have: Koushun Takami’s novel and the Kenji Fukasaku movie that followed employ a similar premise to “The Hunger Games:" A group of kids are isolated and told that they must fight to the death until only one survives. Like the America-turned-Panem of Collins’ novels, the Japan of “Battle Royale” has devolved into some kind of amorphous, ominous land of little, where the government sees all and allows nothing.
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"Blade Runner:" Whenever a new sci-fi story comes around, there’s always that guy who says “Didn’t Ridley Scott do that already?’ That guy has a point here —sort of. Though it doesn’t contain the man-versus-machine element, “The Hunger Games” owes a debt to the 1982 Harrison Ford classic: There’s an American dystopia, a theme of hunter-and-hunted and a lot of people reading a lot of meanings into it.
"Nineteen Eighty-Four." We don't need to go through the motions on this one, do we? George Orwell’s 1949 novel tells of the dark and troubled land of Panem — er, Oceania — ruled by the Capito l— um, Party — a shadowy organization that is always watching and mandates that people follow its exact whims. Any reviewer reference to the Capitol of “The Hunger Games” as a Big Brother-type entity only reminds us that Orwell had a Big Brother too — the original.
"Lord of the Flies:" A couple of films put their own spin on the classic, but the premise of the William Golding novel is on its own spare, terrifying and not at all dissimilar from “The Hunger Games.” After an unspecified disaster, a group of well-heeled young boys crash on an island. They try to band together, but their Darwinian natures get the better of them and they engage in ruthlessly primitive behavior in the name of survival. Unlike “Hunger Games,” here it’s human nature instead of government dictates that prod them to savage behavior. Tomato, tomahto.
Photo: Jennifer Lawrence "The Hunger Games." Credit: Lionsgate