Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Hunger Games - A Review

Note: this is a review of the movie based solely on the movie itself - not on the books, and not what may come up in future movies in this trilogy. To those who have not seen the movie, I recommend reading a synopsis of it if this review seems confusing. Also, this review does contain mild spoilers, in that it hints at the overall tone and outcome of the movie.

As I watched The Hunger Games, I became enthralled with the central characters and the choices that they would be forced to make once in the arena. I wondered, "Twenty-four teenagers being told that they will have to kill each other in order to survive? How is the author going to redeem this situation? What kinds of noble sacrifices will I see? Who is going to lay down his or her life in order to demonstrate the wrongness of this situation?" In fact, the character development and pacing of the first half were so excellent, so that I was at the point of being physically affected by tense moments in the plot.

In my mind, I was beginning to harken back the coliseum in ancient Rome, where those who called Jesus Lord repeatedly demonstrated the excellence of their Redeemer by laying down their lives in His name, and by refusing to kill in cold blood. So, when I began to realize that both of the main characters seemed prepared to kill in order to survive, I began to become wary of what might happen next, though I still expected some plot element to somehow redeem the situation and demonstrate to me value of life, or the excellence of sacrifice, or some other noble virtue. Afterwards, I remembered thinking of the story of Telemachus, and how different it is from that of The Hunger Games.

As the characters interacted with each other inside of the arena, the story unfolded into one of total human depravity. I am unsure of whether the author meant it to be taken as such - perhaps I was supposed to see the main characters as justified in what they did. Kill to survive. Kill by default. Kill in self-defence. But by the end of the movie, I could only think that they had displayed evil selfishness. Any serous Christian evaluation of the movie must conclude the same. Not one of the twenty-four teenagers was willing to openly oppose the games before they started, and not one of them displayed a total unwillingness to kill for survival.

So then, what should a Christian do with this movie? Should he decide against seeing it because of its display of depravity? I do not think so, as I would cautiously recommend Hotel Rwanda to adults who can handle the terror it portrays. However, the effect of  The Hunger Games on the viewer will be very different from that of Hotel Rwanda, as The Hunger Games asks us to identify with characters who we eventually see as evil. My mind was extremely troubled by the story for several days afterward. Therefore, my recommendation is that a Christian who understands human depravity may see this movie without violation of conscience. However, he or she can expect to be disturbed by what they see - there is nothing at the end of the movie to redeem what happens.

One final note: the majority of those who see the movie will likely not understand that the main characters were wrong to kill. I even came across a review by a Christian missionary who thought that the main characters were vindicated, and simply victims of their situation. If you discuss this movie with friends, please keep in mind that killing for self-preservation is wrong, no matter how an author may frame it. We have the testimony of the Christians of ancient Rome, who considered it a privilege to die for the Glory of God. A person who chooses to kill others to save his or her own life is without excuse because of the Law of God which is written on the heart of every person.