The Hunger Games Movie—a Christian Mother’s Review

hunger games

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.

 

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9 comments

  • Thanks for this post Gina! Loved it. I think it’s wonderful that you read through these books with your sons and were able to discuss them. You’re teaching them to think through issues. You’re an awesome parent for doing it (I’m always encouraging the parents at the youth group I work with to do the same!).

    I *just* posted on the Hunger Games on my blog yesterday – my post was called Why the Hunger Games is the most “Christian” book I’ve read in years. Got a lot of good feedback. Love these things that make us think and sort through our morals.

  • Thanks Jess, I was glad for the opportunity to get into such a weighty discussion while they’re still impressionable. I’m glad you encourage parents to do this. We miss a lot of teachable moments with our kids.

  • Hi Gina!

    My 11 year old just started reading Book One. After a few chapters, she comes downstairs to my writing cave and slips me a little paper with two names next to two sad faces: Prim and Katniss. Can’t wait for her to read the series so we can have some deep discussions too! Thanks for sharing.

    -Raj

  • God bless you for this review. I’ve heard many negative comments from parents about the books and movie, but like you, I believe that the moral questions brought up by the book and movie — not the violence — are the core of the story, and the reason why the books and movie are worth my family’s time and attention. I’ll be sharing your review with friends and readers.

  • Gina, I’m one of the nine who has no interest in the novels or the film but can understand why others do. I must take one convoluted exception to your description of the portrayal of our country. The sole (and soul) reason this nation has flourished is because of the founders setting it up as “one nation under God”. The energy and inspiration which has made this nation what it is, the most productive, is because of Him. The fat cat syndrome is an individual choice which for some of us corrupts our desires and turns us to self and a lust for power. Much of today’s government has become corrupt. And one of the reasons for much of the third world’s poverty is because of corruption in their governments and the refusal to manage their resources and inspire their fellow countrymen under pagan or atheistic governments.

    The USA is, or was until this administration, the most generous country in the world, first on the scenes to give aid to victims of catastrophes in other countries, etc., while trying to penetrate closed countries (with outfits like World Vision, etc.) who are starving their people.

    Certainly with the failure of our citizens and government we will eventually become the country that disappears in Revelation, and I can understand where literature can be used as a warning.

    Your description reminds me of the ancient Roman government and Coliseum – which of course could happen to us.

    Sorry I latched onto that, Gina, and went off topic. No doubt you covered this with your kids.

  • Gina, we’ve had moral discussions about this movie in my house as to whether it’s okay from our 12 year old to see it. I agree that it can be a fabulous teaching tool and your insights gave me further ideas to that end. Thank you for this amazing post!

  • Nicole, I agree we are a blessed nation because we were founded upon Christian principles. We are one of the most generous nations, but all I can report is what I see around me. I see most people I come in contact with more concerned with what’s new at Walmart that a genocide across the world. . We could do more individually and a country is made up with a large group of individuals. We have become complacent. We being most of us in this country. Not all of us. I liked this movie and book because it was one more thing shaking me out of mine. I fall into it not only daily but hourly. It’s a constant battle to not live there. To actually consider others, not just myself. I’m not sure we’re in any kind of disagreement though. I love this country and those within it who are making a difference. There’s many, just not enough. It would never be enough unless every one of us were trying to do our part I think.

    Jennifer, I understand other parents reluctance because of the violence but for me, my boys play video games full of fighting (and we’re talking super hero games, not Grand Theft Auto). These books and movie were very thoughtful and gave me that chance to discuss right from wrong. Moral from immoral. I cling to every opportunity to do this with them while I still can. Thanks for your comments.

  • It astounds me how someone who has not read the books can rush to judgement on their value. The Hunger Games is no more about kids killing kids than Harry Potter is about casting spells. These books (and, in my opinion, all forms of art and literature) lead us to explore the deeper moral issues of life. Art teaches us about ourselves, our society, and sometimes God himself. I wholeheartedly believe that God, as the ultimate and ongoing Creator, breathes through art to reveal His truth. The art form does not have to be “Christian” (and I HATE that word as an adjective!) in order to achieve His purpose. I love to engage my kids in discussions about good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, moral dilemmas – and literature is a fantastic medium to begin those discussions.

    In The Hunger Games, the Capitol is portrayed as an oppressive, gluttonous, indulgent, appearance-obsessed society, determined to maintain control over its poorest, most vulnerable citizens. Does this sound remotely familiar? That’s the kind of thing I want my kids to recognize. How can they change the world when they aren’t aware of the world they want to change?

    Thank you, Gina, for a fair and insightful review!

  • Although I’m not sure I agree with young children absorbing this much evil and violence into their minds regardless, your kids were able to process the movie with a wise and discerning mother. It’s the rest of the kids I am concerned about, those who have no one to take them in that direction. What will they do with this story?