The Hunger Games
Reviewed by: Jeremy Landes
Sci-Fi Thriller Drama Adaptation
2 hr. 22 min.
Year of Release:
March 23, 2012 (wide—4,000+ theaters)
DVD: August 18, 2012
Does The Hunger Games phenomena have “the possibility to catalyze, motivate, mobilize a generation of young people who were… by and large dormant in the political process“?
personal strength, values and honor
Katniss substitutes herself for her sister—SELF-SACRIFICE / importance of protecting the young and innocent / help those in need / be compassionate in your actions
Are you living a COMPASSIONATE life? (getting involved in helping those who are suffering)
“How do you feel about the fact that some people take their next meal for granted when so many other people are starving?”
If real people in our world, who are truly suffering, looked at your life, what would they see? Would your life seem frivolous? Self-indulgent? Excessive?
Katniss generally relies on flight and ingenuity to avoid unnecessary killing. Why?
Every human life is valuable. The taking of lives is tragic.
Refuse to give in to evil.
Refuse to compromise about what is truly right and good.
bravery and courage
Evil governments, and our enemy the Devil, use FEAR to control people. How can we overcome that?
importance of personal freedom
dangers of big government control
What are the mechanics of totalitarian governments?
society in a repressive and controlled state, under the guise of being utopian
compare the film’s live televised spectacles to the ancient Roman Colosseum’s games and events, produced for public entertainment and political control
the trilogy’s coming constant battle for freedom against tyranny
media control and manipulation / What are the ways that media “play” the masses in the favor of those in control?
What is generally wrong with the way celebrity is created in our culture?
Are today’s youth being overexposed to contrived reality on television, leading to a detachment from images of others’ real pain and terror?
“What’s your relationship to reality TV versus your relationship to the news?”
Author Suzanne Collins says, “Too much of people’s lives are put on television, and we’re desensitised to actual tragedy unfolding before us.”
Are young people today becoming desensitized real world violence around them?
“The world will be watching”
The Hunger Games phenomenon (first the novel, now a blockbuster movie) is, at its core, about how a government uses the media to control its population. In this fantasy future world, an annual lottery forces 24 teenagers (called “tributes,” from 12 districts) to participate in a reality television spectacle called the Hunger Games, where they will be forced to kill one another. The reason stated for these Games is to remind formerly rebellious districts that their government is still firmly in control.
This weekend, millions of Americans will be piling into theatres and mirroring the film’s fictional audience that cheers for their favorite tribute and bets on on who will kill all the other teens. Our own money is on Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence)—after all, she’s the movie star and the one on the poster, plus she’s the only character who the filmmakers portray as having anything passing for depth. It’s clear from the beginning, she’s in no real danger of losing her life. The main question is: what kinds of deaths are we going to get to see without jeopardizing the all-important PG-13 rating?
The decadent, gaudy audience members depicted in The Hunger Games are painted as heartless seekers of entertainment at others’ expense; we’re meant to judge them for their callous disregard for life. Except that going to the films counts us among an audience willing to pay for the privilege of watching teens kill each other as a form of sport. The main difference between the audience for “The Hunger Games” movie and “The Hunger Games” TV show (watched by ugly people with bad hair inside the film) is that we are being cued to feel badly about a few of the deaths (but not the “mean” kids) even though we know that Katniss only prevails if everyone else dies.
So how do the filmmakers help us empathize with a main character who is forced to violently kill others? They make sure that all the killing she does happens in self-defense or as a way to try and help someone who is “innocent.” They give her a sister who she saves from participating in the Games, plus another cute little girl to try and protect. They also introduce killer insects and dogs that can do the dirty work for her, so that paying audiences won’t feel any qualms about rooting for her to survive through killing.
So, if you’re reading a review of this movie on a Christian Web site right now, chances are that you call yourself a Christian and may be wondering if you should go see “The Hunger Games” or take your kids. Maybe you want to know how violent it is, whether there’s swearing, nudity, etc. Honestly, I can’t remember any swearing. Nor is there any sex or nudity. The violence is frequent and awful, but the filmmakers use a handheld camera and edit away violence that might seem too upsetting. In this style, when a little kid receives an arrow in her abdomen, she doesn’t scream or plead for help while she’s suffering. It’s a relatively clean death with a little bit of red makeup on her shirt that’s supposed to be blood. She dies quickly and peacefully while the music swells, plus she’s cute, cuing us that we’re meant to feel bad about this character’s death—even though she earlier helped end the life of another character via attacking insects.
When a mean character is getting eaten alive by monstrous dogs, there’s no screaming from him either—he’s one of the “bad” kids who delights in killing others by snapping their necks. Some might call these uses of violence appropriate, but I call them profane. In this film, it is a means to an end—setting up the character of Katniss for two more blockbuster sequels without giving us any pause to question her choices or character. Since this is a kill-or-be-killed arena, we are supposed to accept that she has no other choice.
Hundreds of years ago, crowds would gather to watch Christians getting torn apart by wild animals or burned alive. Today, the American culture deemed “Christian” by much of the world, is gathering to watch fictional characters end each other’s lives in creative ways. The fact that there’s another audience depicted in the film for us to criticize about their enjoyment of the reality television murders may seem to give us some moral distance and license to stay in our seats and keep watching the killings, too. But while watching it I could not help realizing that I was condoning the behavior demonstrated onscreen by showing up and paying to watch it, and I felt convicted.
One character interestingly theorizes, “If nobody watches the Games, then there’s no reason to have them.” Similarly, if you choose not to sit and watch teenagers participate in the bloodsport called The Hunger Games, you may send a message that there’s no need to make two more sequels. At the very least, you’ll be able to keep some disturbing images out of your head and be able to better meditate on what is true, noble, and pure.
Perhaps the most disturbing moments showed the two heroes moving toward suicide to achieve a goal and, later, another “evil” character being pressured to kill himself—being locked in a room with poison. If you’re reading this, you may still be able to exercise the choice not to enter a room/theatre where there’s only poison to digest.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Moderate to mild—OMG (3), damn (3), hell (2) / Sex/Nudity: None
Editor’s note: The above reviewer read The Hunger Games before viewing the movie. The Hunger Games is the first part of a trilogy series of young adult books by Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay. The first book, on which this film is based, aims to establish the characters and depict the depravity of a totalatarian government that sacrifices its own children. The following books reveal rebellion, civil war, romantic intrigue, and the end of the Hunger Games.
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