When The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins first came out, I was skeptical of the hype. I kept away from the books for years, preferring to instead regularly devour books in my favorite genres, contemporary, romance, and thriller. But as always happens, I eventually decided that I couldn’t be the only person I knew who hadn’t read a book. So, I bought the first book in the three-book series.
And the joke was on me. I devoured it in a day. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the rest. I immediately ordered them and read them just as fast as I’d read the first. I went to the midnight premieres for all four movies. I even bought a copy of The Hunger Games when it came out on DVD.
I was absolutely obsessed. And when I reread the books ahead of the release of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes in 2020, I wasn’t at all surprised that they lived up to what I had remembered. So what better time to rewatch the movies than when the trailer for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes has dropped?
Over the course of one weekend, I threw myself back into Panem. Here’s what I thought of the movies, eight years later:
The divide between the capitol and the districts is all too real
The Hunger Games takes place in Panem, a nation in the ruins of North America with a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol relies heavily on the resources the districts provide and claims that, in return, it keeps the districts safe from war.
I always knew that the wealth in the Capitol was extreme. But watching the movies now, I couldn’t get over how much more the people in the Capitol had than the citizens of District 12. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) have to risk crossing the boundary of District 12 so that they can hunt in order to have enough food to survive. And the people of the Capitol have so much food they can’t possibly eat it all. The buildings in District 12 are so run down that Katniss can’t help but be fascinated by the train she takes into the Capitol. I mean, we all remember Effie’s famous line when Katniss drives a knife into a table, don’t we? “That is mahogany!”
As an adult, it’s even easier to see the parallels between Panem and the world we live in. Just as in the Capitol, the wealthiest among us have more than they could ever need. And just as in the districts, the poorest among us have to struggle to survive.
The games are fascinating—but they’re also extremely disturbing
When you read and watch The Hunger Games as a teenager, you do so from Katniss’s point of view. But when you watch the series as an adult, it’s impossible to picture yourself as a 17-year-old who survives a fight to the death and ignites a revolution. So while I am fascinated by the technology of the games—the gamemakers’ ability to throw anything from fire to genetically engineered wasps in the tributes’ path and the genius of the clock in the Quarter Quell—my heart was beating so fast while I watched the games. The idea that a government would punish its citizens by forcing its children to murder each other on live TV is truly disturbing. I found myself hiding behind a blanket during the initial bloodbath when the games begin and cringing when Thresh and Cato were killed by the mutts.
Katniss does have people in her corner
In a series with a premise like this, it’s easy to think that not a single adult has their head on straight or even seems to care about what happens to the children. But watching the movies as an adult myself made me think more about the positions the adults were placed in. It made me realize that Katniss does have people looking out for her.
There’s Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), Katniss’s mentor. While he relies heavily on alcohol to numb the memories of his own games, he does provide Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) with life-saving advice and do his best to get them sponsors. Then there’s Effie (Elizabeth Banks), the escort of the District 12 tributes. While Effie’s hair and outfits make her look no better than anyone else in the Capitol, she actually has a taxing job, regularly meeting tributes she knows are about to die. We see Effie’s true feelings when she says goodbye to Katniss and Peeta before the Quarter Quell, telling them both that they “deserved so much better.”
But most of all, there’s Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), Katniss’s stylist. Cinna immediately decides that a girl as brave as Katniss shouldn’t be dressed in a drab, gray coal miner costume. Instead, he turns Katniss into the girl on fire. More than anything else, it is Cinna’s costumes that bring attention to Katniss, making her a favorite in the Capitol and giving her a true shot in the games.
I am still Team Peeta, but I care less about the love triangle now
When the series was at its most popular, all anyone wanted to talk about was if they were Team Peeta or Team Gale. And I happily joined in these conversations. I mean, Gale was a good friend to Katniss, but it was obvious. Katniss would have literally rather died than kill Peeta. How could she not love him?
But while I still love Peeta, I can’t help thinking back to an old interview of Willow Shields, the actress who plays Katniss’s sister, Prim, being asked if she is Team Peeta or Team Gale. Her response? She’s Team Katniss. That’s the energy I hope we all bring to this series now.
The most important love story isn’t romantic
Whether you’re obsessed with Peeta or Gale, there’s a love story here that’s more important than both of them: Katniss’s love for her sister, Prim. After all, the story starts when Katniss volunteers for Prim when her name is called in the reaping, unable to bear the thought of her sister dying in the games. And when Katniss says goodbye to Prim before leaving for the games herself, Prim asks Katniss to “just try to win, if you can.” Throughout the series, Katniss regularly makes decisions based on her love for Prim, saying that she has to do her best to survive because of her sister. There is no one in the world Katniss loves more than Prim.
A decade ago, The Hunger Games was my favorite dystopian YA series. And now, it still holds that title. I will always be so impressed by the world Suzanne Collins created and how well it was brought to the screen. So if you are looking for a series filled with challenges and love or just want to take a trip down memory lane, I highly recommend watching these four movies on Hulu. After all, we need to get ready for President Coriolanus Snow’s story in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes when it hits theaters in November, don’t we?