With the recently released Hunger Games opening to record numbers in the US box office, the film's inherently nihilistic nature begs the question why do an overwhelming majority of futuristic movies dissed out by Hollywood always come so bleak?
Futuristic movies generally display an apocalyptic setting where all the main protagonists are distinctly dystopian. Whether it is the Matrix (Where machines harvested humans as sources of fuel) or Terminator 2: Judgment Day (which was about machines taking over the world) a hopeless desolate future forms a common backdrop.
The hugely successful District 9 released in 2010 (The Film’s setting South Africa was a welcome change from an overused, worn out settings of Mexico or Texas) was undoubtedly took darkness and desolation to a different level. It portrayed a starkly different scenario of the cruel fate that might befall an entire race of aliens at the hands of humans, if they are unfortunate enough to crash on our planet.
Similarly the recently released Hunger Games depicts a gruesome story of a group of teenage boys and girls who are pitted against each other in an idyllic set of woods in a not too distant future , where chaos and anarchy are the order of the day. The rules of this macabre game of survival are simple, the teenagers are supposed to kill each other and the last person to come out alive is declared victorious and showered with riches
Why do such movies always have such a gloomy underpinning? Experts believe such bleak depictions stem from ours inherent cynicism. For instance, James Cameron’s Terminator’s was actually meant to highlight humans’ overwhelming dependence on the machines which consequently precipitated such a scenario of machines ultimately assuming control over us.
Real life burning issues also get portrayed in the guise of fiction. District 9 was really about the pernicious effects of apartheid and drew from the real life events of “District 6” in Cape Town where a forcible expulsion of nearly 60,000 blacks or mixed race took place, represented by the aliens (referred as prawns)in the movie , where they too were forcibly segregated.
In the same vein Hunger Games is a radicalized version of high school drama, the most difficult adolescent period in any child’s life that leaves indelible marks or scars on a child’s psyche. The hypercompetitive rat race in high school will make you either swim or sink or in this movie’s case – kill or be killed.
One may simply dismiss the ominous signs these films portend by labeling them simply as “deranged popcorn” fantasies, but a large section of sociologists are of the opinion that the events shown in the movies, howsoever fantastical they may appear, are actually a reflection of a growing concern about the ills and abuses of the society that are occurring in front of our eyes. Filmmakers try to cushion the blow of this harsh reality by telling the audience that such untoward events will happen in a distant future. The futuristic films will definitely have narratives woven around on many compelling issues- apocalyptic natural disasters , genocide of epic proportions or a zombie infested land where only a handful of humans battle for survival. “Children Of Men’s adroit depiction of a chaotic, anarchic world where the entire human race have been rendered barren is another classic example that springs to mind.
Rather than out rightly dismissing the themes of these movies as silly fantasies and figments of moviemaker’s imagination, the onus is on us to watch and listen more intently and take adequate measures to stave off such a disastrous future.