The movie, the “Hunger Games”, presents a new vision of Dystopia. In this troubled future world, troubled future teenagers are randomly chosen by an evil despotic government to participate in a reality show in which they have to fight to the death. The story is a mix of teen angst and a weak satire of the TV show, “Survivor”. In this vision of the future, the world really is out to get all the teenagers- it doesn’t just feel that way. Also, when you’re voted off the island, this time you are voted off for good.
The movie presents a lush view of Dystopia. The story takes place in the nation of Panem, a North American nation built upon the ruins of the United States. Panem has outlying, impoverished districts which support a seemingly well-to-do Capital city. It is to the Capital that teenage contestants travel for their fight to the death. We get to see one of the districts, #12, which is depicted as a dusty, run down mining outpost. It’s not really shown in the movie, but the novel goes into more detail about how the district residents are all starving. Citizens of District 12 mine for coal and get by eating squirrels and rabbits.
For the unlucky contestants, the trip to the Capital is made on a sleek, high-speed train. Passengers ride in opulent luxury. The final approach to the Capital city is through a tunnel, and then the city bursts forth in all its splendor: soaring, modern structures with bright forms and interesting shapes. The city has plenty of fountains and a nice tied-arch bridge that doesn’t seem to go anywhere but is there for show.
The gap between the splendor of the Capital and degradation of the outlying districts may be a reflection on the relative success of Washington DC during the current recession.
Science fiction movies have a long history of depicting future Dystopia through visions of infrastructure. The movie, “Blade Runner”, presented a grim version of a washed up future Los Angeles. Residents of this hideous city waded through endless rain, surrounded by belching factories on dark, neon-lit streets.
The recent “Batman” movies were set in a dark, oppressive version of Gotham City.
The visual environment of a future Dystopia is based on the movie-makers understanding of the present. How today’s infrastructure works (or doesn’t work) becomes the basis for the future extrapolation. These future visions are purely fictional, of course, and are provided for our entertainment. Many are very depressing, so part of the entertainment value is a feeling of relief when the movie is over and theater-goes get to return to the cheerful, sunny present. Except that present day visions of jet liners destroying skyscrapers, and walls of water overwhelming entire Japanese cities, seem more fantastic and far-fetched than the fictional movie images from the future.