The Hunger Games

  • Review Date: March 23, 2012
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2012
  • Running Time: 142 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Intense adaptation is violent, thought-provoking for teens.
  • Review Date: March 23, 2012
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2012
  • Running Time: 142 minutes

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Thought-provoking, complex messages. Teamwork and loyalty are valued, but deception and artifice are also rewarded. The will to survive, the fragile relationship between a dictatorial government and its oppressed people, rebellion as a preferred option to obedience, and the distinction between image and reality are all addressed. There are many discussion-worthy themes in the movie, and they touch on everything from the micro/personal to the macro/political. 

Positive role models

Katniss is a strong, resourceful, capable young warrior who looks after those she loves. Her entire journey is based on a selfless decision to take her younger sister's place in the Hunger Games. Despite the horrific circumstances that she and Peeta are forced into, they find a way to stay true to themselves and protect each other (and, in Katniss' case, Rue). Peeta encourages Katniss to not let the Capitol make her a pawn in their game. Gale, Katniss' unconditional friend, promises to provide for her family in her absence. Haymitch is a flawed but ultimately committed mentor to Katniss and Peeta; Cinna offers Katniss sympathy and support.

Violence

As in the book, The Hunger Games' central "pageant" is a televised battle to the death: 24 children between the ages of 12 and 18 (12 girls, 12 boys) are selected to participate in a bloody reality show-style contest in which there's only one victor. There's a pervasive sense of peril and tension, and once the Games start, there's an immediate bloodbath, with vicious weapon use, a fair amount of blood, and several dead bodies -- though the quick editing means that the most gruesome bits aren't lingered on. The young combatants proceed to die from spears, arrows, knives, deadly insect bites, attack by genetically modified dog-like creatures, and poisonous berries (some deaths occur off camera). A couple of the tributes also have their necks snapped or heads bashed. The Gamemakers purposely devise situations to try and kill off characters, including a scary fire with fireball projectiles; another scene has a large explosion. Katniss is badly burned; Peeta has a nasty knife injury. Earlier in the movie, there are scenes of characters practicing with weapons and demonstrating their deadly skills, as well as gory snippets of footage from earlier Games. Scenes of a riot and subsequent retaliation by government forces.

Sex

Peeta reveals that he's had a crush on Katniss since they were kids, and the two kiss a couple of times, one time pretty passionately.

Language

Very infrequent use of words like "damn," "hell," and "oh my God" (as an exclamation).

Consumerism

No product placements in the film, but the viral marketing and merchandise tie-ins for the movie (and books) include a line of themed nail polish, as well as apparel, jewelry, games, and more.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Haymitch is often drunk; he has a drink in his hand for the first half of the movie -- though as he gains focus/motivation, he drinks less. Several dinner and party scenes show adults and teenagers drinking various brightly colored beverages/cocktails.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that although the bestselling Hunger Games books are enormously popular with tweens, there's a clear distinction between reading about violence and seeing it portrayed on screen. Developmentally, the 10- to 12-year-olds who've read the book may find the movie's visceral, sometimes bloody teen-on-teen violence upsetting -- especially the brutal scene that opens the Games, in which several teens are slaughtered by their fellow contestants. Even young teens need to be mature enough to deal with the 20+ deaths in The Hunger Games; characters are viciously dispatched with various weapons -- including spears, arrows, and swords -- as well as by having their necks broken, their skulls cracked, and their bodies ravaged by carnivorous and poisonous creatures. Despite the violence (which is, overall, less graphic than the novel's descriptions but is still very intense), the movie explores thought-provoking themes about reality television, totalitarian government, and screen violence as entertainment. And Katniss, the main character, is a strong heroine who's resourceful, selfless, and a true survivor. Her mentor, Haymitch, is initially depicted as a cynical drunk, but he ultimately proves to be a valuable ally.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

In a distant post-apocalyptic future, North America -- now known as Panem -- is composed of 12 districts that are controlled by the totalitarian Capitol. Every year, one boy and one girl from each of the districts are randomly selected to compete in the Hunger Games, a televised battle to the death for the Capitol's amusement ... and as a brutal reminder of the districts' failed rebellion. When 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen's (Jennifer Lawrence) younger sister is chosen as one of District 12's representatives, she volunteers to be the tribute in her sister's place. Aided by half-drunk former winner Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), personal stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), and fellow tribute Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Katniss embarks on an unimaginable journey to emerge as the Games' sole victor, even though that means 23 others will have to die.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Director Gary Ross has faithfully, lovingly adapted the first installment of Suzanne Collins' riveting dystopian trilogy. As the compelling Katniss, Lawrence (an Oscar nominee for the similarly themed drama Winter's Bone) completely brings "The Girl on Fire" to life. She anchors the movie with her heartfelt portrayal of a fierce and selfless young woman who knows how to survive and how to save the people she loves. And Hutcherson is fantastic as the thoughtful and protective Peeta. (Fans expecting high romance should know there are several tender moments, but the love story takes a rightful back seat to Katniss' extraordinary tale.)

The supporting characters are all equally up to the task of realizing Collins' vision. Stanley Tucci is particularly wonderful as scene-stealing Caesar Flickerman, a smarmy TV personality who hosts the Games and interviews all of the competitors. Elizabeth Banks is hilarious as Effie Trinket, the Capitol's liaison to District 12, and Harrelson is a slightly more understated but just as clever version of perpetually drunk Haymitch. Everyone -- whether it's Donald Sutherland in a few powerful scenes as Panem's menacing President Snow; newcomer Amandla Stenberg as Katniss' young ally, Rue; or the various other young tributes who die one by one -- gives their all to this captivating commentary on government, entertainment, and self-identity. The Hunger Games is violent, but in a heartbreaking way that will both make audiences think and count the days until Catching Fire is in theaters.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the Hunger Games' "last man standing" premise (minus the actual killing, of course) compares to current reality shows. Which shows pit people against each other? Why is it so much fun to watch the alliances and the voting off and the cattiness of these programs? How far do you think shows like this could go?

  • Use the movie's depiction of Panem -- particularly the relationship between the Capitol and the 12 districts -- to discuss how much kids understand about totalitarian governments and dictatorships. What does President Snow mean when he says he doesn't root for "underdogs"? Or that too much hope is a dangerous thing?

  • How does Katniss compare to other female protagonists in young adult books and movies? What are her views on love, marriage, and kids, and how are they tied to the unimaginably dire circumstances she endures?

  • Why are there more bleak portrayals of the distant future than optimistic ones? What are some other books and movies that feature a post-apocalyptic or post-war future?

  • How does the movie compare to the book? What are the main differences? Is it different to see violence rather than to read about it? 

Movie details

Theatrical release date:March 23, 2012
DVD release date:August 18, 2012
Cast:Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson
Director:Gary Ross
Studio:Lionsgate
Genre:Action/Adventure
Topics:Book characters, Great girl role models
Run time:142 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:intense violent thematic material and disturbing images - all involving teens

This review of The Hunger Games was written by

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  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Written byAnonymous March 21, 2012
AGE
10
QUALITY
 

Underlying violence, doesn't matter though

It is a great film, and fine for most kids. all of the super violent stuff has been edited out of the film, leaving only the more mild scenes. but there is a very violent underlying film, most people should be fine with that. the common sense media review is awful though, is "oh my god" and one kiss really a reason to boost the suggested rating? anyway, this film is fine for kids
Parent Written byhardtruth March 23, 2012
AGE
18
QUALITY
 

Now That's Entertaining!???

I just left a midnight showing where hundreds of teens packed into multiple theaters to watch the movie version of the now popular book they were assigned to read in junior high English. The anticipation was tangible as they waited to see how faithful the book was going to be to the movie, and if Katniss and Peeta were all they had imagined them to be. What they saw was hard core dehumanization. The fact that we find teens killing each other in big-screen gladiatorial combat entertaining marks a new societal low. This is more than a movie, it is a desensitizing and trivializing of life and death as a form of twisted broadcast amusement. Best summarized from a line in the film, "just think of them as the other animals you hunt". Our kids deserve better role models and higher quality food for thought.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Parent Written byDecaturmom123 March 23, 2012
AGE
11
QUALITY
 

Appalling... maybe. Important... yes.

I don't really understand why some think that his movie glorifies teens killing teens. I think quite the opposite is true. Is there violence?... yes. Is it a movie that is just too scary for young children?... yes. Are the themes too complex for most young children?.... yes. That being said, this movie does anything but glorify teens killing teens. Indeed, the heroes of the movie actually risk their own lives to save others that they should be trying to kill. I'd recommend that anyone who is appalled by this movie read all three Hunger Games books so you can see the bigger picture and fully understand the larger themes. It may change your mind. The Hunger Games books provide an important commentary on just how far our obsession with reality TV can go and just how far a government with too much power can go. Reality TV today showcases and even glorifies bad decisions and suffering. It's about time that someone showed teens how dehumanizing Reality TV could be..... taken to it's extreme. A movie or book series that can get that message across to adolescents without being preachy (preaching never works with teens) gets an A in my book.
Teen, 16 years old Written byRustyGirl March 22, 2012
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

Not quite as violent as the book

Incredibly, The Hunger Games movies has stayed extremely close to the book, with only a few minor changes, and several larger ones that, while it didn't quite happen that way in the book, it's about as close as they could get without making a 5-hour movie. The violence is toned down somewhat. Most of the deaths were slightly off-camera, though in many cases you can still see the blood fly. Deaths that were somewhat gruesome in the books are still the nastiest, but you don't see too much of what's going on, or what happened. One scene involving a certain type of bug/muttation may scare kids. A death on the first night that could have been somewhat disturbing for younger kids was avoided in the movie (Careers show up, cuts back to Katniss' face, a scream is heard. You find out what happens second-hand from Glimmer as the Career Pack run past). Gamemakers talk about killing off Tributes, even joking about it. The end of the Games is nowhere near as gruesome as the book, and is shorter. There are several "shock" moments that had my friend, also sixteen, jump a good three inches. After the first one, she looked at the projector rather than the screen because we knew an even bigger "shock" moment was coming up. Haymitch, the District 12 mentor, starts off the movie very drunk. As the movie goes on, he sobers up and starts doing everything he can to actually help Peeta and Katniss. For sexual content, there's hardly anything worth noting - just a couple of kisses between Katniss and Peeta. Overall, the movie was really good. The use of a hand-held camera in many places gave you the feeling of actually being there. I actually got lost watching it, which doesn't happen often. In the end, it depends on your kid. If they were okay reading the books, they they'll likely be all right watching the movie - though be wary, seeing it play out on screen could make it seem more "real."
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence

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