The show “Squid Game,” distributed by Netflix and created by Hwang Dong-hyuk, has taken the world by storm. It uses the “death game” storyline, a dystopian genre in which many characters are enlisted to compete in life-or-death arenas.
Roughly 10 years ago, the young adult series “The Hunger Games” had a chokehold on popular culture. It was truly everywhere, first with the wildly popular books and then the equally popular movies starring Jennifer Lawrence as protagonist Katniss Everdeen.
As the idea of the death game revisits the nation, I thought it would be a good time to look back on “The Hunger Games” to see how it has held up, specifically the first in the trilogy: “The Hunger Games.”
The world depicted in the movie is not an uninteresting one for young adult novels: a dystopian setting in a future where the government rules with an iron fist. What used to be North America is split into 12 separate districts, and the people live in subservience to the government.
Each district must tribute a boy and a girl to participate in what they dub “The Hunger Games,” a competition in which the 24 contestants are placed into an arena where they must fight to the death in order to win.
The idea of a dystopian society may seem overdone in modern media, but it still holds up in the distinctive quality of its execution. In “The Hunger Games”, the worldbuilding is clearly well thought out, with each district having specific traits and history.
The protagonist Katniss volunteers for these games in place of her sister. She must manage a fragile political game surrounding the competition as well as the actual contest. This is what makes the series still hold up very well, as it makes sure to cement the importance of the context of the game. It’s not just a fight to the death in movie form. It places the action and excitement carefully within the cognition of the greater world.
Unlike “Squid Game,” which uses children’s games as its challenges, “The Hunger Games” is more of a survival of the fittest.
The arena is sporadically booby-trapped with both natural and unnatural obstacles, and bystanders can actively contribute by sending gifts to their favorite contestants. Bait is also used to draw people together and make things more interesting.
The main appeal of “The Hunger Games” is the tension surrounding what is happening around the characters. Deaths are announced spontaneously throughout the competition, and it’s easy to pick up on the characters’ general fear and apprehension as well as the creation of friends or allies.
In “The Hunger Games,” the narrative and world is very complex. The action is interesting and so is the ending. If “Squid Game” helped partially satisfy the death game crave – but not entirely – “The Hunger Games” is definitely worth checking out or revisiting.