Anghus Houvouras on The Hunger Games franchise…
Franchises. They’re everywhere. I’ve written a lot about them over the years and subsequently have gotten a lot of flack from people from swinging my razor wire covered baseball bat into the shins of the blockbuster cinema complex that Hollywood has become. It’s painfully obvious that franchises aren’t going anywhere. I’m not going to win this particular battle. The big movie studios will continue to perform film fracking by strip mining the big budget hits of yesterday and extend the life of anything with the slightest potential to turn a profit.
So, in an effort to lower my hyperbolic rhetoric and look for potentially interesting crevices in the cinematic landscape, I decided to start a series of columns called Franchise Fresheners. The goal: to probe languishing franchises with some stank on ’em and find a fresh, new, rose covered pathway to the land of freshness. First up, The Hunger Games.
The Hunger Games was one of those franchises that managed to exceed early expectations before devolving into total dystopian nonsense. For me, the series was almost unrecognizable by the time Mockingjay Pare Deux hit theaters. The first is a flawed, but interesting piece of cinematic fluff. The second film manages to succeed with world building and upping the stakes before devolving into typical ‘let’s overthrow the douche’ movie clichés. What greatly helped the series shortcomings were an extremely talented cast of recognizable actors who helped elevate the material.
Now that the story of Katniss, Peeta, and the rest of the Battle Royale appropriating crew is over, where could the franchise go? As much of a cliché as the idea has become, how about the beginning?
Let’s face it, Hunger Games was extremely derivative. It borrowed heavily from many works of fiction to create a familiar cinematic landscape. The Hunger Games films delivered a high-tech world of kid killing action that featured a well oiled machine and a world on the precipice of revolution. But what was that world like 75 years ago, when the first Hunger Games were held?
No one hates an origin story more than me, at least when it comes to most franchises. Especially superhero movies where they all take on a ridiculously similar cadence. But a Hunger Games origin story could be something interesting. A low tech world where the Districts have been formed and a despotic government suggests something sinister. The version of the Hunger Games we’ve seen gives us rituals and societal norms that they have become accustomed to. What about the first group? I doubt those tributes were nearly as willing or ready to be dragged out to the middle of nowhere to fight to the death. I’m also guessing that a much more low tech world of the recent past would feature more barbaric battles.
I’d be interested in seeing a Hunger Games movie that was set in this time period, and I think audiences would too. Who were the first contestants? Without the high tech battlefields that could be created, where were they forced to do combat? What would interviews with the combatants be like before it had become a societal norm? Who is the sick son of a bitch that came up with this idea?
There’s fertile creative ground to be plowed. The first four Hunger Games films were less about the games themselves, and more about Katniss’ role in them. A movie chronicling the first Hunger Games could introduce to a whole likable cast of kids forced to kill one another. The first and most savage of them all.
I’m not sure if they’re planning any more Hunger Games films, but if they are, the first Hunger Games is certainly an interesting place to start.