I read the NYT best-selling trilogy, The Hunger Games, with my teenage son. As far as stories go, it was, page one to the last, full of action, love, and moral questioning. It gave my son and I many opportunities to discuss what God would have us do if, heaven forbid, we ever found ourselves in similar circumstances. When the movie was released, we couldn’t wait to share the story with my 10 year-old son, who couldn’t get into the books.
If you’re one of ten people in North America who haven’t read the books, or seen the movie, here’s the premise: “In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before-and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love. Acclaimed writer Suzanne Collins, author of the New York Times bestselling The Underland Chronicles, delivers equal parts suspense and philosophy, adventure and romance, in this searing novel set in a future with unsettling parallels to our present.”
The movie took some liberties, as most, if not all, movies do. The most obvious is the playing down of much of the brutal violence contained in the books. If they didn’t, the movie would have earned them a rating of R instead of PG13 and would have alienated much of the core readership audience. Woody Harrelson was a shocking choice as Haymitch. I don’t recall the exact descriptions Collins used for the character in the books, but I saw him in my mind as a short, balding, frumpy sort of man. Harrelson turned out to be great in the part. I thought the casting throughout was perfect. My favorite surprise was Lenny Kravitz as stylist, Cinna.
The biggest liberty, I thought, was how Katniss came to wear the mockingjay pin, but honestly, it wasn’t a big thing to me. All in all, I think they did a fine job with the movie and I look forward to the sequel.
The best part of the movies and the books, for me, wasn’t the action or love triangle, it was the moral questions that arose. I love movies and books that make me think and Hunger Games gave much to think about. In many ways, America, and other wealthy nations, can represent “The Capital”. It’s easy to see the rest of the world looking at us this way. We are fat, happy, spending money on changing our eye color with contacts while third world countries have millions who are starving. Is it okay to take care of our own wants while others needs aren’t being met? I like asking myself this question. I like having to think about weighty matters that as a Christian, I ought to be thinking about. I especially like knowing my children are thinking about such things. I don’t want to raise children who stick their fingers in their ears and pretend their problems are the only ones in the world that matter.
My ten year old son said after the movie ended, “That was really sick. If my name was drawn, I wouldn’t kill anyone. I might run and hide, but I don’t think God would want me to kill other kids just because they were unlucky enough to have their name drawn.”
He looked to me to agree, which I did. “Some things are worth dying for,” I said. “And at the end of our lives, it’s not the government that we stand before, it’s God. What would He have you do?”
My two sons and I walked home from the theatre in silence as each of us considered that question. That contemplation alone earned two thumbs up from this Christian mom.