This is from my notes Sunday at our roundtable discussion for our film festival.
Each of these films are dystopian trilogies and share some commonalities.
All have an oppressive structure to fight against. Hunger Games it is the government, Divergent is the culture’s faction system, Maze Runner starts off with “The Maze” being the oppressive force but later we understand it’s a medical team.
Each has an unlikely heroine/hero that is facing an impossible task. Familial relationships are core to each story but in very different ways. Hunger Games is the actual family while Divergent focuses on the faction and Maze Runner on those in the Glades.
Adults are seen as aloof at best, the evil that is causing the problem at worst. Of course, this is probably more because these books are written for the young adult crowd.
There is a loss of innocence, an end of world problem that stands before our protagonists and each trilogy has a solution to the problem that involves self sacrifice at some level. In fact, all of them insist that the solution will only come about through sacrifice.
However, each is unique in it’s own right as well.
The Hunger Games
Gives us Katniss Everdeen as the primary heroine. A theme that runs through the entire trilogy is how compromised Katniss is by her love for Prim, her sister. She’ll do anything to save Prim – even use love as a commodity with Peeta. It’s not that she wants to hurt Peeta or Gail but she wants to save Prim at any cost. She will ‘play the game’ to save Prim, no matter who it hurts along the way including Peeta and Gail – her best friend back home who she also “loves.”
Colors and textures are huge in the film. Anything bright is to be distrusted, anything rustic/dirty is okay. President Snow, his white hair, clothes, and roses all scream at us – it is all a lie, don’t trust this! Purple seems to show us a blinded, ambiguous character at first. Effie Trinket and Plutarch, the game master.
Most of the film is about the gray. Is okay to kill if you are going to be killed? Is it okay to lie in order to survive? How far will you go to play the game with the Capital? Does Katniss really love Peetah or is this just part of the ruse?
Katniss never escapes the gray in the entire story. She is always compromised in some way. She doesn’t want to be the Mockingjay but will do it to save Peeta. She doesn’t want to the attachment to Gail unless it’s to help her mom and sister. She is more concerned about Prim than the atrocities of the government and leading the revolution.
You can see shadows of the Roman culture and its infatuation with the violence of the Colosseum. It’s the logical conclusion of secular humanism that the Hunger Games gives us a vivid picture of. In fact, Katniss has is eeriely similar to the goddess Artemis – woman hunter with bow and arrow who loves the outdoors.
What topples the Empire in book 1 is the “unconditional, sacrificial love” between Peetah and Katniss. Of course, it’s only Peetah that feels this way, Katniss is playing the game, playing the odds that the ‘system’ won’t stand for both victors to die in the arena. She wins the gamble in book 1. This value system doesn’t hold in the remaining story.
Quoting Plutarch -moves and countermoves becomes the name of the game. More war, different leader – same system. Both sides use deception and flattery to use Katniss. But deception is fine as long as end goal is noble.
There is a false reality of free will in Divergent. Same choice the Heavenly Father faces – do you allow free will and the beautiful mess that it creates or just the illusion of free will? If only the illusion, you must remove anything that is truly free. Hence, Divergents threaten the system. In life, God takes the risk.
Again – another heroine fighting in community, not alone. Focus here is more on society roles, than government. Self-sacrifice of ‘heroine’ is key to freedom — like Hunger Games.
Tris has a problem – she wants somebody else to tell her who she is and how she fits. She doesn’t want to do the work on her own.
Of the three – this one was had the least appeal for me. The romance was minimal which was nice but the payoff and twist doesn’t seem to push the story as well as the other two.
The Maze Runner
Doesn’t matter who you were before the maze.
So much biblical imagery in this story. Thomas – one of the creators of the maze – enters the maze as one of ‘them’, not as a creator. He comes to help heal, solve it. He offers them a new perspective – it’s not a prison, it’s a test. Only way to get out of maze is to follow Thomas, have a relationship with him and trust him enough to follow him through the maze. This comes at a great sacrifice to Thomas as well as the Gladers.
Family is redefined. Not by blood but by purpose and calling. They are the called out ones – church as it were.
The problem with world isn’t a system but a ‘sickness’ inside people. This sickness makes people the walking dead. Must cure the people, not the systems. The cure is a new creation, a new Eden, a new relationship. Forgiveness is the huge step to access this cure as is leaving the old behind.
SO MANY BIBLICAL ALLUSIONS!! Can’t be an accident. Maze Runner makes for a great allegory of the Gospel at work.
Trust, betrayal is a huge theme in the books, the idea of family is reframed and redefined. Shadows of what a new life in Christ is about – trading families.
love the picture of both needed – male and female hero
I think all three have some value and will allow you to talk about some incredible topics from a spiritual perspective.
The violence in Hunger Games is intense. Kids killing kids. As harsh as that is – there are places where this happens today. So it isn’t completely fiction. In urban areas, overseas in religious settings in particular. This is reality for some children in our world. They face the same moral dilemmas – kill or be killed. Grow up fast in places like that. Will you let your culture change you? Will you let them dictate what you do? Peeta said – no. Katniss…wasn’t as confident in that answer.
Divergent and Hunger Games gives us a glimpse of what the natural end of secular humanism looks like. If you solely lived by the values of secular humanism/darwinism – Hunger Games and Divergent is what you get. That is a picture we need to see. Our beliefs have deep, far-reaching consequences.
Both Divergent and Hunger Games preach that we can heal ourselves. That ultimately man’s best hope is himself and his ability to create a better system. All that is needed is more education, more war, more tolerance, or different leadership. It’s fools gold. It’s circular reasoning. It has never worked out that way in history. But it makes for a good ending for a book or movie.
There is huge desire/fear in the characters that the world they are in is not all there is. The future world/unknown world is met with equal parts hope and trepidation. And their quest is seen as a key component in how to deal with this fear. On the positive side, culture is seen in every series as something to fight against, to question. Ironically enough, this doesn’t happen in the real world. We seem to embrace it way to fast – values, morals.
There are whispers of the Gospel in each of these stories. Each of the authors were created in the image of God, their source of creativity is God and that DNA comes out in the stories – whether they intended this or not. There is more to this world than meets the eye. Something is amiss and needs fixing/redeeming/saving/healing. There is a bigger story going on. Is the core issue our culture or is it us?
I think Maze Runner is the better picture. There is a sickness. Some body has to find the cure. We don’t know what the cure is but we are going to establish these games, these mazes to see what does – pleasure, education, alternative society – what ever.
Finally, the guy who created the world has to enter the world to save the world. Heard that concept before? And that’s the Gospel – we need someone who isn’t sick – doesn’t have a sin problem – to cure us all. Comes at great sacrifice – both to the one giving the cure and the ones receiving the cure.