The “Hunger Games” franchise speaks to a lot of issues relevant to our own world: reality television, income inequality, political dissent. But those aren’t the sorts of issues one expects to explore in a Times Square exhibit.
Yes, “The Hunger Games: The Exhibition,” opening at Discovery Times Square on July 1, revels in the more spectacular aspects of the films, with some of Katniss Everdeen’s most recognizable costumes and recreations of sets like the train car in which Katniss and Peeta first ride to the Capitol. Throughout the exhibit there are over 1,000 production relics, photo ops and hidden details teasing the final forthcoming movie, “Mockingjay Part 2.” And while there’s no archery, you can learn some of the defensive moves that kept the Tributes alive from the film’s own stunt coordinator through a Kinect simulator.
But rather than putting visitors through the paces as a Tribute, “The Hunger Games: The Exhibition” is about Katniss Everdeen’s world told through her life, from leaving District 13 to the splendor of the Capitol, then becoming the figurehead of the revolution in Panem. It literally all starts in a room wallpapered with blueprints and a short film narrated by Effie Trinket, who by the end turns into the actress who plays her, Elizabeth Banks.
It’s the way you wish museums had been when you were a kid. Panem and its 13 Districts teem with concepts already familiar to us, from hydroponic farming (in an outtake for the book crowd) to how the films' visual style evokes the oppressive regimes of Communist Russia through architecture. Interactive stations explore the natural world, like the Muttations created for the arena and Appalachian flowers that gave many of author Susan Collins' characters their names.
There’s also finally a map that settles the geography of Panem, and to give a taste of the revolution to come, a chance to make your own propaganda video. Download a smartphone app and online study guides for another layer of exploration.
“The Hunger Games: The Exhibition” maps the world of Panem onto our own, and in the process makes both more relevant. And isn’t that what an exhibit should do?
Eva Kis is on Twitter @thisiskis, where she talks about pop culture, cats and media almost as much as food.