Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

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The Hunger Games came out while we were living in Germany last year and since the theatre occasionally played movies in Version Original, we thought we might actually see it at the theatre.  (Not normally something we do, but when you live in a foreign country, the chance to hear your native tongue is really exciting!)  Unfortunately, these showings in English usually only happened at 10 PM on a weeknight--too late for my working husband.  So we eventually rented it when it came out on DVD and watched it on our computer in our flat.

My husband had read the book so he had some familiarity with the plot line.  If you are unfamiliar...The story is set in a dystopian world where the area of the would-be USA is divided into districts with distinct ways of life.  An annual tradition exists wherein one boy and one girl are selected from each district to compete in an every-man-for-himself-style battle to the death.

The movie definitely has an interesting story and good actors that most of us like; Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, and Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence (NB: she did not win for this movie).  If you like futuristic films or dystopia stories (think 1984 or The Lottery), The Hunger Games is a good choice.  Personally, I'm not sure that I would recommend the film for children under 12 and maybe not even 12 and up if the child seems immature of has trouble separating reality and fiction.  Here's why:

**Possible spoiler alert**  (It's probably fine, but just in case...)

I personally found myself a little disturbed by the film.  I knew the premise of the movie and I fully understood where things were going.  I know that I was supposed to be disturbed by the carnival-like atmosphere of children fighting each other to the death.  But here's the thing: I didn't feel like there was any moment during the film when the viewer was given the opportunity to make these connections and really think about how this world is like and unlike the world we live in.  Vicious, realistic killing was happening between children in a movie aimed at children.  People who may be too young to appreciate the complexities of the social allegory taking place.  There is something safer about the books to me.  A child who is reading them is likely to be intellectually advanced enough to grasp the whole meaning.  Even if they are not, the book is only words and they must use their own imaginations to conjure the images they would see in the movie.

Another thing that bothered me was that there was no moment of goodness.  I am sure this will come in the later films, but the first film was dark--both symbolically and literally.  There was no point at which there was relief from the evil for the viewer and I felt emotionally deflated afterwards.

There are definitely cinematic merits to the film, but I think it should be viewed with caution in relation to age and development of the viewer and the individual's sensitivity to negative themes.  In other words, if you are easily emotionally affected by fiction, this isn't the movie for you.

10 comments:

  1. Thank you for posting about this movie. I too felt the same as you, that even though the movie/book were good, the theme was still a bit disturbing. That's so cool you lived in Germany! love from Nepal, Katie

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  2. I loved the movie, but that's probably because I read and loved the book. Totally agree that it's not for children, though. But when you think about other books used in school there are a lot of disturbing things in those, as well. But obviously those are used in a setting of discussion about what you are reading.

    Funny little side story: the movie came out when Rory was about a month old. I was desperate to see it but she was kind of nursing ALL the time so we were THOSE people. We brought her with us. We figured she'd just sleep the whole time and I could nurse her when she was awake. Nope. Matt ended up holding her in a hallway for most of it because as soon as the previews were over she started crying. At least we weren't the people who kept a crying infant in the theater? Lesson learned, and I will never try that again, haha.

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    1. I definitely think it makes a difference whether or not you read it. My husband said it did and I felt like there was very little insight into the personal thoughts of Katniss that I figured was probably going on in the book and he confirmed that. I really think the book is fine, but I just don't feel comfortable with the movie for all kids. Kids savagely killing other kids without any explanation of the allegory going on is just hard for me. I know it will come in later films, but it'll be too late for the kids. My mom is an elementary school librarian and I told her older kids can read it, but not the movie. Parents have to decide. She's not allowed to have the books in the school library though because of age appropriateness since 1st graders could then check it out.

      That sounds like a stressful way to watch a movie! Glad your lesson was learned!

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  3. I loved the movie, but I read the book too and I think that makes a big difference because there is definitely more food for thought in the book that I brought to the viewing experience.

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    1. Agreed, Mandi. I kind of just responded in the above comment about how reading the book is much different. Question: Would you let kids who had not read the book see the movie? I'm thinking the movie is more ok to see if they have the reading to back up the ideas?

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  4. I have never actually seen the movie, mostly because I'm not sure how I would deal with children killing children. I'll be interested to see if there is any redemption as the story progresses.

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    1. It's difficult, Sarah. I really think it's reading the book that makes the difference. See the above comment replies for more :-)

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  5. I read (and loved) the book first and couldn't stand the movie! Since the book is written in first-person you really get inside Katniss' head and there is SO much going on in there that you couldn't possibly get from the movie and just watching...including everything you mentioned about readers having a chance to digest what's going on vs. not having the time to connect everything in the movie.

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    1. I totally agree, Stephanie. I touched on what you're saying in my reply to the second comment. I could TELL all those thoughts were missing and that if I had read the book the story wouldn't feel so flat and her character wouldn't seem so flat.

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