For several classes in my MACS program at Criswell College, I have been tasked with reviewing a popular secular movie with themes reflecting those covered in the class. For my eschatology class, The Hunger Games movie was an option. Being a fan of both the books and the movie, I naturally chose this. Here is my take on the movie and the theological themes contained within.
While not specifically apocalyptic in nature, the Hunger Games trilogy based on author Suzanne Collins’ bestselling young adult novels displays a dystopian future that could coincide easily with eschatological elements. In the first movie in the series, The Hunger Games, we are introduced to a future, post-American nation known as Panem. As a way of controlling public angst and keeping people under rule, the Capitol holds a despotic game in which two teens from each of the 12 districts fight to the death in a controlled environment. They do so for glory and for their people. For the winning district receives extra provisions for the following year. Katniss Everdeen, the heroine of Collins’ trilogy, volunteers for the games in place of her sister, Prim, along with Peeta Mellark from District 12. Katniss and Peeta eventually wind up as the two final living contestants of the games. Instead of battling to the death, they are set to commit double suicide before being declared as co-victors. This act of defiance against the rules of the Hunger Games sparks a riot in a number of the districts and the story continues to the two sequels (Catching Fire and Mockingjay).
Several theological themes emerge in the movie, however they are all flawed in their core. The first theme the viewer sees in one of self-sacrifice. No theme is more Christian than to lay down ones life for another. However, no sooner has Katniss apparently sacrificed herself by volunteering for her sister, she flips over to the Darwinian theme of survival of the fittest. A once innocent teenage girl becomes a cold-blooded killer. Self-sacrifice becomes self-preservation.
The second theological theme apparent in The Hunger Games is one of a redeemer. Katniss is portrayed as the savior of District 12—and in the sequels, the redeemer of all of Panem. But a redeemer she is not. Redeemers don’t play by house rules. They break the mold. They change the system. They right the wrongs. Katniss goes along with the killing. Three tributes die directly from her hands. She played the game as it was meant to be played. A true redeemed would have forced the Capitol’s hand and not killed the other tributes. A true redeemer would have rescued her fellow tributes. Redeemers bring life. Katniss brought death.
The third theological theme present is the one most closely tied to the topic of eschatology. The where of The Hunger Games is stated clearly—it’s in North America. The when of The Hunger Games is the key to our eschatological discussion. Taking into consideration the three main viewpoints of the Rapture, there is only one reasonable option for the timing of when this movie could take place.
For the pretribulationist, the initial thought would be that The Hunger Games would take place in the time between the rapture and the Day of Judgment. Days are desolate. There is no mention of God. A great curse has come upon the land. However, this was the 74th annual games, meaning the time of tribulation would be longer than the believed seven years. So that option is eliminated based purely on mathematical deduction.
For the prewrath rapture adherent, a postrapture, prewrath view would be apparent initially. But for the same mathematical reasoning as the pretrib view, the 74 annual Hunger Games events could not take place in the generally accepted 3½-year window. That leaves us with the posttribulation rapture possibility.
In the posttribulation perspective, times will get increasingly difficult for Christians before the return of the Lord for His final judgment. What could be more hostile to the Christian faith than a system that pits teenagers against one another in a brutal fight to the death all for the right to a more plentiful bounty of rations? What would elicit cries of Maranatha more than the blood of innocent children being shed as gamemakers looked on in delight? It is for these reasons, that I believe The Hunger Games is movie with a posttribulation viewpoint whether Collins is aware of her eschatological leanings or not.