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All hail 'The Hunger Games': New prequel film resurrects series hype

Tom Blyth and Rachel Zegler star in "The Hunger Games" prequel, "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes," set to be released this Friday. – Photo by @balladofsongbirds / Instagram

This Friday, "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes," starring Rachel Zegler and Tom Blyth, will be released in theaters. The newest installment of "The Hunger Games" is drumming up major hype, already receiving positive reviews ahead of its theatrical release. 

But what's really interesting about this movie is the cultural phenomenon that comes with it — a resurgence of attention for "The Hunger Games." This trend has been dubbed online as the "Hunger Games Renaissance."

When "The Hunger Games," Suzanne Collins' first book of the series, was released in 2008, it caused the dystopian fiction genre to become incredibly popular. It led to the release of book series like "Divergent," "Matched" and others containing similar plot details, namely controlling governments and young female protagonists who become part of rebellions. But there is a lasting power to "The Hunger Games" that we haven't seen from these other stories. 

Is the hype surrounding the series just due to the new prequel movie? While the film has certainly had an impact on the series' popularity, reminding readers of a story they enjoyed years ago, there is likely more at play. 

"The Hunger Games" does contain some common young adult book tropes: a love triangle, futuristic technology and a corrupt government. But the book's core themes are ones that won't lose relevance or trendiness the way these tropes might.

The series explores the pain, sacrifices and consequences of war and the pitfalls and dangers of capitalism, among other serious topics. So while fans who are excited to see "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes" are discussing common movie topics like casting, costuming and music, they are also taking a deeper look at the original series' themes and how they are represented in this new installment.

One of the other factors that has contributed to this renaissance is the fact that many of the people who read "The Hunger Games" as teenagers are now returning to the series as adults. Fans of the original series who were young and not heavily active on social media when they first read it are now sharing their ideas and perspectives about the story online.

The release of the new film drives nostalgia, but it also gives grown-up fans of the series a chance to look back on how the series shaped their understanding of media and the real world.

Given these circumstances, it's no surprise that "The Hunger Games" is having a resurgence on social media. In a culture so focused on movie remakes, "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes" stands out as a prequel because the themes it explores, such as capitalism, war and the exploitation of marginalized groups, are still culturally relevant in 2023.

This makes the movie feel both current and nostalgic, while other remakes, prequels and sequels may feel stale or unnecessary. Remaking movies or adding sequels just for the sake of doing so doesn't always land well with audiences.

As seen with the upcoming "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes," franchise-based films can avoid fatiguing audiences as long as they maintain the essence of their source material.

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