What 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.
- 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?