Despite having heard rave reviews of “The Hunger Games” from two readers in two generations who really loved Harry Potter, I sniffed at the book covers with a certain disdain – kids killing kids? Sounded too violent and… offensive to me. But the marketing fever got to me, and when I realized that movie was coming out this month, I downloaded my 19 year old’s digital book to my iPad and started in.
Gentle reader, I raced through the books in about a week.
I admit to a rapid addiction to Suzanne Collins’ writing and a guilty satisfaction from the gotta-finish-the-trilogy jolt that I also got from the Dragon Tattoo series. Like readers across the country, I was obsessed with Katniss and her struggles against the sadistic Panem empire. That a gusty, girl heroine was once again capturing the hearts of readers was not lost on me. That she excelled at shooting with a bow and arrow was also darned appealing.
As a former film exec, I have been skeptically curious about how the filmmakers would bring the savage imagery of the books to their target audience of eerily young readers. An author can say that her storyline is meant to educate children about the horrors of war, but do we want to watch a handsome cadre of teens take each other out on screen? As you’ll see from this wry commentary by Jamie Reno on the Daily Beast this morning, parents of kids as young as 12 are pressured to let their children see this film. Of course, they’ll all see it eventually, with the many platforms available to our media-saturated offspring.
But to let your kids go before the general consensus of reviewers and parental watch-dog organizations have weighed in represents the crucible of parenting in the digital age. Faced with the intense marketing hype, and social pressure in the halls of middle school, is just being tickled that our kids liked reading a certain book enough of a reason to rush to the multiplex?
This morning’s Los Angeles Times review from Kenneth Turan says: “As to the kid-on-kid violence that has been the subject of so much talk, Ross has managed to adroitly downplay that, keeping the mayhem to a PG-13 level. Most of the children in the film want nothing to do with killing, and the ones who do look considerably older than the heroines of previous ultra-violent films like Hanna and Kick-Ass.”
But, NPR posted David Edelstein’s less glowing review this morning, which criticizes the morality of the storyline and calls the filmmakers “moral cowards”. He also quibbles with the film’s PG-13 rating: “If the film’s director, Gary Ross, has any qualms about kids killing kids, he keeps them to himself. The murders on screen are fast and largely pain-free — you can hardly see who’s killing who. So despite the high body count, the rating is PG-13. Think about it: You make killing vivid and upsetting and get an R. You take the sting out of it, and kids are allowed into the theater. The ratings board has it backwards.”
And, there is further controversy surrounding the books and film: here an intriguing story that draws parallels between the plot of The Hunger Games and a Japanese novel and film called Battle Royale.