Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Is The Hunger Games Wrong for You? A Movie Review from a Christian Perspective

For my blog this week I am reviewing The Hunger Games movie. I realize that many people will have already watched the film by the time this review is out, but if you're up in the air about whether or not you or your children should see the movie I hope this review will help. I have read the books and watched the movie. Hopefully that perspective can help you make an informed decision. Maybe this review is for the parent in limbo whose kids are begging them to see it this weekend, and hopefully it will start some interesting discussions.

Is The Hunger Games A Particularly Christian or Anti-Christian movie?
No. In the books and the movie spirituality is almost completely absent. The most spiritual the film gets is a use of God's name by way of the expletive, "Oh my God." The lack of spirituality is good and bad. The good thing is that you don't have to worry about the director or writer trying to shove their theology down your pie hole. You can avoid awkward conversations about the theology of Katniss Everdeen (The protagonists of the film). There will be no need to combat the evils of witchcraft or the demonic nature of vampires.

The bad part is the exact opposite. The movie doesn't spark any conversation on spirituality. The assumption is that the country of Panem (A dystopian future United States) is completely post Christian. And there may be a conversation to be had about the implications of the scenario, but for the most part The Hunger Games is almost completely spiritually neutral.

Is The Hunger Games a Violent Movie?
This movie is violent. There is no doubt there, but the film makers have taken steps to tone it down from its literary counterparts. There are entire scenes left out to insure the movie stays PG-13. The most shocking aspect of the violence is that it's teen on teen. Watching a young adult get stabbed hurts the heart, but it is suppose to.

I've heard many people say that a movie like this shouldn't be released in our culture. Some would say movies like The Hunger Games encourage a violent youth culture to become more violent. Those people are right about there being way too much violence between youth, but that violence was here long before The Hunger Games and will be here a long after.

Maybe your concern is the impact it may have on your children. I would say that is a legitimate concern. If your teenager is prone to violence and you believe they may act out improperly because of the content of the movie; by all means do not let them see it. That is a choice every parent has to make in the context of their child.

Why All The Violence?
It should be understood that this movie never glorifies violence. Through and through it is seen as evil. Few participate in the hunger games by choice. Most are thrust into the games through a type of lottery. If they are chosen in the lottery they must either go and fight to the death. If they refuse to go their families will be massacred. Those who are not chosen by the lottery volunteer. Most of the volunteers have trained their whole lives for the games, and do look forward to victory. They have no problem killing another person. They are ruthless.

While it is true that some of the characters in the The Hunger Games desire to kill and win. There is no point where those characters are seen as anything but wrong. The movie shows them to be heartless killers and manipulated evil pawns for their districts.

Isn't The Protagonist One of Those Volunteers?
Yes, Katniss volunteers to go to the hunger games for her sister. She doesn't do it because she desires to kill anyone. She goes because she wants to save her young twelve year old sister from almost certain death. Katniss, though more capable than her younger sister, doesn't go to the games to win. She goes to the games as required district sacrifice so that her sister may live. Katniss is also almost certain to die, but at least her sister will live.

John 15:12-14

Movies like the Matrix glorify violence, but movies like The Hunger Games vilify it. The female protagonist never kills because she wants to. She kills out of self-defense. I truly think that great conversations could be had with teenagers about our culture and how it relates to The Hunger Games. As much as many parents would try to shield their children from the evils of this world they won't be able to. A movie like this can be helpful conversation starter on the evils of an oppressive government, and why it is so important that we don't easily give up our freedoms. It is also a great story of sacrifice, love, and difficulty. Few would wish to be placed in the world of The Hunger Games. It is far from romanticized. The movie is a warning of a future that is not too far out of the realm of possibility.

Doesn't This Have One of those Love Triangles Like Twilight?
Yes, kind of. It is true there is a small love triangle. You may in the next months hear people saying they are for team Peeta or team Gale, but that is mostly a marketing group trying to capitalize on the themes and success of Twilight. The Hunger Games focuses far less on the love triangle (At least it does in the books, and I hope it stays that way in the movies) than Twilight. The Hunger Game movie is much more mature than the petty themes seen on teenybopper after school soap operas.

There is one scene where Katniss and Peeta sleep in the same cave. Nothing happens except a small kiss before Katniss leaves to risk her life for Peeta. No sexual activity is even implied in the scene.

There are no curse words in the book, and there are only a few mild curse words in the movie. D**n and H**l are used a couple of times as well as God's name being used a couple of times. If you are comfortable watching primetime network TV the cursing in this movie shouldn't be overly offensive.

Should You See The Hunger Games?
As far as teen targeted movies go this is one of the best shot, acted, and written. Is it appropriate for you? You need to decide that for yourself, and I hope my insights have helped in some way. I would say that no one under the recommended age of the rating (13) should see it. There are intense scenes that too young of a mind wouldn't understand.

This movie is not evil, anti-Christian, or satanic. If you were going to choose between Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games I would tell you to pick The Hunger Games every time.