MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Lionsgate
Directed by Gary Ross. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson
A few years ago, when I first heard about the Hunger Games trilogy of books, I was a bit skeptical. The books are set in a dystopian future (and in this postmodern age of ours, that seems to be the only kind of future we ever hear about) and involve a female heroine who competes in a fight to the death with other teenagers. Just the kind of negative anxiety-driven fiction that was crowding out more important literature from the bookshelves, I thought.
Well, I was wrong. I read the three books (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay) and discovered something quite different – moral fiction! That’s right, folks, these books are about making moral choices against an evil and corrupt ruling empire. That sounds pretty familiar to me, from reading the Gospels and the Book of Acts.
Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) lives in District 12 in the nation of Panem, a postwar America in which there is an annual reality show competition that is used to distract the citizens from their miserable lot in life. Each district enters a lottery in which two teens are chosen to be the tributes, who will be trained and groomed for the contest. 24 will enter the game, with only one survivor standing at the end. The selection is random and unfair, yet the hostess of the show encourages the teens with the blessing, “May the odds be ever in your favor.” Katniss volunteers to play in the game to take the place of her younger sister, Primrose. This act of sacrificial love is the first sign that Katniss will not be playing for herself, but for District 12 and (perhaps) eventually for the good of all people. Katniss is partnered with Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson), a baker, and since neither wants to see the other die, this creates further ethical problems.
The Hunger Games is an exciting, entertaining, thoughtful and sometimes satirical look at the ways in which nations sacrifice their young (through war and exploitation), the emptiness and manipulation of media, and the possibilities to rise above the baser aspects of brutality with grace and love. Yes, there are violent deaths in this film, but also a genuine sense of loss for each life taken. Compared to the careless mayhem and death in a typical James Bond film, this comes as a welcome change.
While I would not recommend this film for children under the age of 12, this is otherwise a great discussion film for adults and youth to see together. The Hunger Games is not only a good adaptation of a good book, but a rare occasion when a popular film has something meaningful to say about love, sacrifice and hope.
Four halos: An exciting and faithful adaptation featuring a strong female hero with a conscience.
Three pitchforks: Brutal deaths, a corrupt government, empty values.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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