The Hunger Games | Film review
We take our Hunger Games seriously at TOCK HQ. Therefore we sent two reviewers: Web, who’s read the entire trilogy, and Judy, a mom who hasn’t read the books but whose daughter wants to see the movie, thanks to Lionsgate's very effective marketing campaign. How different are their expectations and reactions? Read on to find out. (The first part of the review is spoiler-free; we’ll alert you when we get into specifics in case you don’t want to know ahead of time.)
Web Behrens: Well Judy, what you did you think overall? Was it what you expected?
Judy Sutton Taylor: I loved it overall, and it was what I expected: dark and exciting. It kept me on the edge of my seat. I didn’t look away, though I wanted to. I knew the premise—in the North America of the future, a group of teenagers are forced by their corrupt government to fight to the death in a televised arena—but didn’t know much beyond that. I thought the filmmakers did a really good job of telling the story and getting across the awfulness without any gratuitous violence.
WB: Director Gary Ross took a very classic approach to handling the violence—Hitchcockian restraint, where he cuts away from the worst of the violence but prods viewers to imagine it in their heads, which makes it more powerful, really.
JST: As my mother would say, my heart was in my mouth. Through the whole movie.
WB: You mean from the time the arena action begins?
JST: No, from the second the movie started. I felt awful for them. The sense of fear they have there. And the confusion—going from an existence where they struggle for food into this world where they are suddenly treated like celebrities. They have obscene amounts of food and luxuries they’ve never had before, but the end result is so horrible.
WB: What do you think about the PG-13 rating?
JST: PG-13 is not something I take that seriously. I look up why a movie is PG-13 before I’ll take my kids, who are both 9. They’ve seen plenty of PG-13. I avoid sex and violence unless it’s on the milder side. But, unless they read the book first and can handle the themes there, they will not be seeing this movie.
WB: Because it’s too intense?
JST: The overall theme of the movie is too dark for them. I feel like it could cause endless nightmares. My nine-year-old daughter has seen commercials on TV and she wants to see it. Maybe she’ll be ready in a year or two, but I think the "13" part of the rating is something to take seriously. And my daughter likes scary movies; they don’t bother her that much. But this is different. It felt real—it was too palpable. I wouldn’t take a younger child to see this who hasn’t already read the books.
WB: Not specifically because of the violence, I’m guessing? Because we didn’t see most of it on the screen, not in the way modern audiences are accustomed to. Nevertheless, it’s a devastating story. Ross and author Suzanne Collins (they collaborated on the screenplay) certainly drove home the emotional impact of the violence. We see plenty of its consequences—most especially, of course, through the eyes of our protagonist, Katniss, played by Jennifer Lawrence in an incredibly strong central performance. The film never succumbs to the temptation to make Katniss a sex symbol or to make her personality warmer. She’s a hardscrabble hero with plenty of rough edges.