In a world hurtling toward an inevitable apocalypse, many potential parents are likely faced with a conundrum. With the state of the world deteriorating at an exponential rate, both environmentally and politically, do you really want to bring a child into the almost-guaranteed dystopia? On the other side of this coin, if no children are born (a la Children of Men (2006)), humanity will die out regardless of the conditions of its terrestrial habitat. It has often been said that “children are the future”, but what if that was literally the case? What if children are forced to fight the battles of the future? Instead of growing up learning how to play, the games these children are forced to play are for the survival of the human race. This week’s two films examine two dystopian futures wherein the fate of humanity lies on the abilities of children.
The Hunger Games
Length: 142 minutes / 2.37 hours
As we’ve seen in real-life despotic regimes, the best way to keep a populace in check is to threaten children with death. Of course, in order to make sure that everyone knows you’re serious, children will have to die. The child-soldiers of Africa are a prime example of using kids to fight a war they should never have to fight. A fictional parallel to this deplorable practice is that of the Hunger Games. Using children as a punishment for a decades-old rebellion, the government of Panem annually reaps twelve pairs of tributes from the twelve districts. These tributes are forced to fight to the death until a single victor remains. And while the Capitol views these sacrifices as “games”, the rest of the districts are oppressed by having to watch as their progeny are slaughtered. After all, what can they do to stop the all-powerful Capitol?
For the 74th Hunger Games, most peg either District 1 or 2 to win, as they are most-closely associated with the Capitol and have the resources to train up winning tributes. However, when District 12’s Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) emerges as the first ever volunteer tribute, all eyes are on her and her male counterpart, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). After a stunning entrance, courtesy of costume designer Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), the pair is interviewed and it is revealed that Peeta is in love with Katniss. This adds extra drama to the Games, especially since Katniss is now favored to win. With some help from District 11, Katniss manages to survive while also tending to Peeta’s wounds. Soon, these star-crossed lovers are the only ones who remain. In an act of defiance, they both agree to commit suicide, so as to rob the Capitol from obtaining a definite victor.
Length: 114 minutes / 1.9 hours
Sometimes the threat to the human race is not self-imposed. With a large galaxy filled with enormous amounts of unknowns, our final fate might be held in the hands of an invasive species. If aliens were to invade, our chances might be slightly better than if we resorted to the bickering involved with a human civil war. Our united front against a common enemy (a la Watchmen (2009)) could give us the edge we need to repel them. That being said, certain tactics remain in a moral gray area. Do we train up children so that they can provide new and innovative battle techniques? Do we retaliate by taking the fight to the invader’s home turf? Sometimes, ignorance is bliss, but the eventual truth can be debilitating. After all, kids will be kids. Forcing them to carry the burden of humanity is a harsh way to rapidly mature them into broken adults.
An alien race known as the Formics attacked Earth and managed to kill multitudes of humans before being defeated by the legendary Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley). With a population-limiting measure in place, Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) should not have been born, which gives him all the more reason to fight for his existence. This attitude is noticed by Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford), who enlists Ender in Battle School, an orbiting station meant to train the fighters for the next phase of the war. Ender continues to show promise as he rapidly advances up the ranks of the school to become a squad leader. As a result, he is sent to the front lines to train underneath Mazer, who tells him the secret of the Formics: a hive-mind connection. Now it is Ender’s job to run simulations for the final battles against the Formics. Or at least that is what he is led to believe.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 deadly games