I know I’m a little late to this, and I didn’t even read the book. Nonetheless last weekend, my fiancé and I decided we’d see what all the fuss was about and rent the recently released movie, The Hunger Games.
My reaction 2 hours later: I never want to watch that movie again. But yes, it was a compelling story that was told well.
I don’t want to see it again just because it was hard to watch; and I can’t help but wonder if some books are better just staying as books because they’re just too unsettling to watch unfold on the screen. I knew it was a morbid concept going in. A futuristic world in which the each year the government selects at random 24 people to compete in The Hunger Games—a battle to the death with only one winner— as penance for a past attempted rebellion against the government.
So people are going to kill each other and die in this movie as a result of circumstances forced upon them by political powers. Doesn’t seem to promise much hope. I was ready for that. I was ready to be unsettled (not that I was excited about it).
You don’t watch a movie like The Hunger Games because you’re looking for a fun time at the movies. You watch a movie like this because you want to be challenged. You want to be asked hard questions and you want to be inspired to go against the status quo.
[Here’s the part where I’m supposed to warn you that SPOILERS ARE AHEAD. But I’m the last person on the planet to hear this story so it’s probably unnecessary.]
So in this movie we have very moving and powerful scenes like Katniss volunteering to go to The Hunger Games in place of her little sister: an act that the viewer has no doubts saved Katniss’ sister from death with the price of putting her own life at risk. We also see Katniss mourning the death of another fallen tribute in the midst of the Hunger Games, valuing life in the middle of a game that says human life is disposable and meant to be killed for sport. In the whole movie, we never see Katniss seeking to win by murdering others. She only kills when her own life is threatened.
In all of this, we are presented with the major theme of the movie: Life has value, even in a culture of death.
Or at least, that’s what we want the theme of the movie to be. I was convinced that it was… until the last 5 minutes.
The Hunger Games have reached their climax, and it’s only Katniss and her friend, Peeta that remain. The people in charge declare that there can only be one winner, and so we are told to expect a fight to the death. Peeta tells Katniss to “get it over with,” offering his own life so that his friend can win the Games and go home. But then Katniss has a better idea. She proposes they both eat poisonous berries and thus both die, denying the Hunger Games its winner. This would be their own final act of defiance to the government— spitting in the face of everything the game stands for—an act of rebellion against the political powers in the midst of the punishment for a nation’s uprising.
At the last possible second before their suicides they are told to stop. The government bows to their pressure and crowns two winners of the Games for the first time in its history. Everyone goes home happy; Katniss and Peeta have changed the course of history.
Again I’ll remind you that I didn’t read the book, so it may be that I’m missing something huge here. But I was so disappointed that, after all that the story had done in order to show the value of life even in the most terrible of circumstances, suicide was the solution the heroes ultimately came to. In a movie about the value of life, the heroes would have chosen death if the government hadn’t stepped into stop them. Seems backwards to me.
As a result, I didn’t walk away from The Hunger Games feeling particularly inspired to change the world around me. I walked away depressed and unsettled.
So I want to hear your thoughts. I want to hear why I’m wrong, especially if you read the book and can offer some insight that I didn’t get.
Sorry this post was mainly a rant. :)