Nothing written about The Hunger Games movie is right. Why? The movie isn’t right. Is it worth seeing? Absolutely.
It didn’t occur to me while watching the movie, but when I read Ed Morrissey’s review (meh, derivative) and then this Socialist’s site (best movie ever), I knew something was wrong with the movie. And when I read this Psychology Today review, I knew something was wrong with the psychologist and our culture [More about that in another post].
People who saw The Hunger Games saw a different movie depending on whether they read the books or not. On the optimistic side: most teens read the books. On the pessimistic side: most parents had not. This lead to two very divergent perspectives on the movie.
The Hunger Games trilogy books describe a dystopian, post-Civil War future where the central government is rich off the backs of twelve districts of slaves. The central government uses technology, coercion, and laws restricting any form of self defense (no guns..no bow and arrows, even–thus Katniss’ hidden, handmade bow and arrows).
The central government controls by dividing commerce. There are agrarian, fishing, and in Katniss’ case, energy producing districts. Katniss’ father died as a slave in a coal mine to produce energy not for his business or his employer but for the government who would then redistribute the commodity in just enough measure to keep work going to meet the needs of the other districts and to keep the central district in the luxury they were used to.
The oppression, lack of ownership, lack of right to bear arms, lack of free speech, lack of freedom of association, and the central-command misery induced by this situation were never clearly spelled out in the movie. Those who read the books, filled in the blanks. Those who didn’t, took home an entirely different message.
As one liberal reviewer said it, “This is a movie about the 99% and the 1%.”
Uh no. This book was about the oppression of communism and the failure of redistributionism. It was also a book about self-determination and freedom. These are all very American concepts.
The personal despair caused by the oppression really wasn’t fairly portrayed, either. Peeta fed a starving Katniss (a little CGI work to show her emaciated would have been helpful) at great risk to his own life due to reducing his ability to trade on the black market. His mother would beat him.
After Katniss’ father died, the family was starving. Her mother had completely lost her mind. Collectivism creates individual misery.
Meanwhile, the central government was indulgent: a combination of Elizabethan England, coked out models, and crass material excess. Their entertainment was Roman gladiator meets reality show spectacle where children fought to the death as tributes to “peace”. All the districts, including the central one, offered up one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 as tribute and penance for their warlike past.
The premise of the book was so horrifying to me, I had to put the book down. My daughter, in contrast, seemed strangely unbothered–until she saw the movie.
And the horror of it all would is compounded by no context. If it isn’t made clear what the characters will be fighting against, it’s difficult to grasp their desire for freedom. That is, if they’re free and just down on their luck, that’s a different story line. If rich business owners in each district controlled all commerce, that would tell another story.
That would be the storyline the left wants to promote–thus, the 99 and 1% reference.
Critics and fans of the movie must read the books. Without the story, what is a pretty good movie already, becomes an excellent, and scarier, movie. They’re not tough reads and they’ll give the needed context.
Whether it was intentional or just lost on the cutting room floor because of film length, more attention to the foundational why of the story would have helped.
In the next post, I’ll talk about whether children should attend the movie and how to talk about your kids who do go to the movie.