Investing in Family, Movie Review: The Hunger Games

Okay, I admit it. I loved The Hunger Games (book version). And I simply could hardly wait to see how they translated all the action and characters onto the big screen. So finally the other night, my hubby and I left our girls with a dear friend and headed out to check out the adventures of Katniss and Peeta at our local theater.

I could go on about how it followed the book, yet differed from it. I could also wax poetic on the scenes I really wanted to see that didn’t make the movie cut. But, I won’t. (Is it just me, or did I hear a big sigh of relief?) Instead, let’s take a look at the film from a parent perspective that could possibly help you make the decision on whether or not your child should see this movie (if they weren’t among the millions to take it in already).

The Rating

First off, this film received a PG-13 rating. Not too surprising, considering it is based off a “Young Adult” novel targeted at ages twelve and up. Straight from the MPAA website, this rating translates into “Parents Strongly Cautioned,” and “Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13.”

I agree with this assessment. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to say this movie should have received an R rating, I’m not sure the PG-13 cuts it, either. It’s too bad they didn’t have some kind of middle ground rating (whatever that would be).

The Story Line

And in case you’re not familiar with the story by now, The Hunger Games tells the tale of Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen-year-old girl from District 12 in a future America (which has been re-named Panem) who heads to a government-made arena with twenty-three other teens to duke it out to the death in a nationally televised event called, of course, the Hunger Games. Along for the harrowing ride is the male teen (Tribute) selected from Disctrict 12, Peeta Mellark. The film follows their journey from their poor district to the over-the-top decadence of Panem’s Capitol to the stark reality of the Games’ arena.

Violence and Gore

The big concern here for parents of tweens and teens will be the violence. As in the book, a disturbing subject matter is looked at – namely, killing as a form of entertainment as well as a means of quelling rebellious notions and actions. The thought of throwing teenagers into a game to kill each other only serves to heightens the creep/disturbing factor. In fact, my hubby, who hasn’t read the novel or its series and who was only barely familiar with the story concept, said, “Why does everyone want to watch this? It’s teens killing each other!” And that, my friends, is the issue with the movie in a nutshell as far as parents and their kids are concerned.

With that being said, the film doesn’t over-focus on death or gore. Yes, as we follow our heroine into the arena, we see what she sees: her fellow tributes hacking away at each other – some with a kind of glee and blood lust you wouldn’t think a teen would be capable of. Yet even as we know what’s happening to several of the other teens caught up in the mad game, there isn’t a ton of blood and the shots depicting the demise of the contestants aren’t over-the-top graphic with gore. In fact, the most brutal scene, in my humble opinion, is the neck-snapping of a boy by another who has gone into a fit of rage. The camera did not flinch away from that one.

The Theme

Yes, danger abounds for Katniss and Peeta; they both suffer injuries at the hands of their fellow tributes, the Gamemakers who oversee the whole fiasco, and nature. I think, too, parents have to account not only the physical ailments received by the two in the arena, but the emotional aspects that come with the territory. As their mentor Haymitch puts it ever so eloquently after the two are firmly ensconced in their roles as District 12 tributes, they should “embrace the probability of...imminent death.” How two teens can focus on staying alive, knowing they have but the barest chance, and seeing fellow humans being cut down at almost every turn and come out okay...deep stuff there.

Other Stuff

While the disturbing theme and violent scenes are the major concern for folks, here is the scoop on the film’s language, alcohol/drug use and sex. Parents should also know the film has a few mild expletives (along the lines of “Damn you!”). As far as alcohol and drugs, Haymitch is still a drunk, but not the falling-down one he is in the pages of the book. And, yes, there is some kissing on film, but nothing beyond a kiss. And no nudity (beyond a flash of bare legs being waxed).

While I felt the age of twelve was a good starting point for parents deciding on if their kids should read the book, I feel this movie is more for teens – mature teens, at that.

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Anonymous's picture

jefferson wrote:

Tue, 04/17/2012 - 12:16 Comment #: 1

Really loved the book and can't wait to see the movie.. Very nice write-up. I want to see it even more now!

Anonymous's picture

MoneyCone wrote:

Tue, 04/17/2012 - 16:53 Comment #: 2

Discussion about this movie is all over the place! I should at least read the book! :)

Anonymous's picture

AverageJoe wrote:

Fri, 04/20/2012 - 15:22 Comment #: 3

I thought the movie was well done (maybe that's because Collins was one of the film's writers so Hollywood didn't stray far from the source material).

The one point the movie missed (which is so difficult in movie form to get across) is how the characters felt about the violence. What endeared me to the book was the fear, the thoughts about dying (that all kids must have at some point) and the reality of facing situations WAY over their head. I thought the film was fantastic but the book trumps it for this point alone.

Great review.

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