Is there such a thing as “good violence?” If so, The Hunger Gamesjust might apply.
One might not think so considering the film’s disturbing premise: two dozen kids 12-18 are picked at random to fight to the death in a government-mandated reality TV show. And, indeed, they do.
As much as director Gary Ross tries to mask straightforward murder with shaky-cam cinematography and quick cuts, the audience does witness some brutality. In fact, the handheld camera approach intensifies the violence by making the audience feel they’re “In the Game” itself. Jennifer Lawrence, who plays the film’s heroine, is such an adept actress that kids watching will identify with Katniss Everdeen’s plight, which makes the violence seem all the more personal.
So what could be "good" about depicting children killing children? For starters, the violence isn’t glorified in any way. In fact, The Hunger Games actually sensitizes the audience to feel that murder is indeed horrific – something glossed over in most movies. Katniss is skilled, smart and strong inside and out – but she never becomes Rambo.
Better yet, Katniss is the anti-Bella, the weak protagonist of the Twilight films who treats her family and herself with disregard in pursuit of a boy. Katniss Everdeen is self-sufficient, courageous, confident, and values family so intensely she realizes her own survival is integral to their well-being. Katniss is substance over style.
Some scenes in The Hunger Games may be shocking, but they’re also thought-provoking. That’s an excellent quality in entertainment for teens whose brains are engaging in critical thought – but I believe it’s too much for a preteen to process. The Hunger Games is a gripping, well-made piece of cinema that will satisfy fans of the book and provide a springboard for conversation – but under no circumstances should a kid under 12 see this film.
Planning to see Hunger Games on your own, but need a movie for elementary school-age children too? Check these out:
The Lorax: Dr. Seuss’ classic environmental story encourages activism with an issue more suitable to younger children: save the trees.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. Here’s a less scarring way children can enjoy the work of Josh Hutcherson, who also stars in The Hunger Games. The adventure brings to life the works of Jules Verne and other literary greats in fun, eye-popping 3D.
The Secret World of Arrietty. Adapted from another children’s book, “The Borrowers,” Arrietty depicts what it’s like to be small in a big world, something every little kid can relate to.
To read what kids think about The Hunger Games, go to www.KidsPickFlicks.com, where all kids are movie critics.