The Hunger Games

Parental Discretion Definitely Advised

It’s a dilemma: Your kids have read “The Hunger Games,” a bestselling novel by Suzanne Collins (and the first book in a bestseller trilogy), and now the movie has landed in theaters and they want to see it. It’s rated PG-13, largely due to its violence and plot that some find disturbing.
For those unfamiliar with “The Hunger Games”: The novel takes place in a post-America society called Panem in what used to be North America. The land is divided into 12 districts, which serve the capital. As retribution for a rebellion 74 years ago, the districts must send one boy and one girl “tribute” to the Capital to “fight to the death.” Only one “tribute” can survive.  Every moment of the Games are televised for all of Panem to see. It is a violent and deathly reality television show. (As a matter of fact, author Collins came up with the idea for her story while flipping between channels of a reality TV show and also seeing news coverage of the war in Afghanistan).
The book has graphic content and violent images.  When adapting the story to film, the producers of “The Hunger Games” did everything they could to keep the movie at PG-13 to widen its viewer base. With the disturbing violence associated with a plot involving kids killing kids, it seems this movie could have possibly warranted an R rating.  While some of the brutality has been toned down for the screen version, a viewer is still likely to be  disturbed by the ruthless expressions of the murderous young people called tributes. 
Best advice: Parents need to weigh this on a case-by-case basis. Largely because of the significant violence, which can stay in your head longer than such things as quick bursts of profanity, we don’t recommend the film for kids in elementary school.  You may want to read the book yourself, and go see the movie with your child – it will surely open the door to plenty of discussion. Even though its themes and violence are a concern, some middle schools are already incorporating the trilogy into their curriculums
While the book unfolds in first-person narration, the film does not – so we lose the many cynical thoughts going on in Katniss’s head that made the novel so real.  Ultimately, it is a fine movie that follows the book rather well, despite a few inconsistencies (such as a few characters missing) that book fans will identify.  In the lead role of Katniss, Jennifer Lawrence gives a performance that’s both bittersweet and powerful.  She is fearless, strong willed, and we sympathize with her situation as well as the charismatic Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). Despite all of the brutality, there is a sense of humanity between the two.
Parents: Atlanta Parent wants to know if you have concerns about “The Hunger Games,” and are struggling with the decision to allow your child to see the film. Please email editor Julie Bookman at jbookman@atlantaparent.com or visit us on Facebook. Special thanks to our high school intern, Jaclyn Turner, who saw the film the moment it opened and reported back to us.