As punishment for their ancestors fighting a losing cause, young people are chosen by lot to face a monstrous, almost certain death. A lone teen steps forward shouting, “I volunteer.” There is a startled gasp and a silence. The crowd stands back as she is lead away, her family desperately reaching for her.
While the outlier distinct is pure Appalachia, and the opening ceremony has all the pomp of imperial Rome, the story is pure Greek.
Wielding the bow of Artemis, the Hunger Games heroine walks the familiar ground tread by Theseus on the famous dancing floor so many centuries ago.
Entering the maze to protect innocence and put an end to human sacrifice, she will strive to bring her comrades home, although unlike in its more optimistic prototype, they are doomed. She is thrown into the hunt, relying on her wits and learning as she goes, complete with doubts, guides, lesser monsters and adventures.
This time the Labyrinth is a forest with no escape – the paradise of nature turned into an unpredictable web of terror. In an even darker turn the comrades, instead of being huddled together in the ship, are turned loose on each other. The monster is a pack of wolfish panthers, part ferocious animal – part 3 D computer graphic, summoned at will by a council of techno engineers.
In the climatic chase scene these modern day Minotaurs pursue the hero as she races back to the mother ship with her new friend and lover. Together they defeat the monsters and flee back to a more civilized world.
The triumphant return to adoring crowds, the ceremonial crowning, all that’s missing is old King Aegeus leaping from the cliffs into the sea that still bears his name.
For millennium each generation has altered the Theseus tale to fit its own rhythm and circumstance while maintaining its essential kernel. In this telling the story is live and instant, watched on TV through out the empire, with a select few sitting in luxury boxes influencing the story as it unfolds. The common folk cheer and weep every twist and turn, just as they always have.
It’s all presided over by game show hosts – our new priests – conducting the ceremonies. With the wisdom of an old the bard, these tradition keepers give us the visual and the back story, narrating the events and sharing in the triumph.
But this is a dark telling of the tale – in some sense we are a long way from the sunny lands of Greece. There in might lay its value to us – and its controversy.