Summer blockbuster season starts early with the March release of The Hunger Games, one of the most anticipated films of the year. Though directed at a younger audience, the film appeals to both teens and adults.

Based on a bestselling novel of the same name, the story follows Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl who lives in the country of Panem in post-apocalyptic North America. Most of the people of Panem live in fear of their government, the totalitarian Capitol, which intimidates and oppresses the population.

As punishment for rebelling against the Capitol many years ago, each of the 12 districts of Panem must provide one boy and one girl (known as “tributes”) to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death where only one person may emerge the victor.

Katniss, a competitor in these games, is not always likeable, but she is brave, compassionate and fiercely loyal to her family. After her father dies in a mining accident and her mother sinks into a deep depression, she takes responsibility for the welfare of her family—no easy feat given that she lives in District 12, the smallest and poorest district in Panem. And when her younger sister, Prim, is chosen by lottery to participate in the games, Katniss volunteers to take her place.

With 24 tributes fighting in the arena, the Hunger Games are war in miniature, and the story does not shy away from addressing the dehumanizing realities of combat situations. Prior to the games, Katniss' friend, Gale, grimly suggests that killing another human being may not be so different from killing an animal, to which Katniss responds, “The awful thing is that if I can forget they're people, it will be no different at all.” As Katniss battles the other tributes, she also struggles to retain her humanity—and see the humanity in others. And like a soldier returning home from war with post-traumatic stress disorder, Katniss is haunted by her experiences in the arena and filled with anger toward the Capitol for sending the young tributes to their death.

While Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games, has stated that one of the purposes of the novel is to educate young people about war, the story also has a strong social justice theme. Collins sets up an obvious parallel between the Capitol and our world's affluent societies which, while benefiting greatly from the cheap labour of people in developing countries, often turn a blind eye to their poverty. While the citizens of the Capitol live a life of luxury, the people of the districts, who produce the goods these citizens enjoy, can barely afford to eat. Many of them live in huts and do not have regular access to electricity. In District 12, where the main industry is coal mining, working conditions are unsafe and accidents are common. Watching The Hunger Games, it's hard not to be disturbed by the Capitol's attitude toward the districts and wonder what kind of a society would be OK with this arrangement. The answer, perhaps, hits too close to home.

As the film's PG-13 rating suggests, The Hunger Games is not meant for children. It's a dark film that explores some murky moral territory, and the level of violence may be a concern for some parents. However, this is no reason to write the film off. The violence portrayed in the film is disturbing because violence is supposed to be disturbing. This is one of the story's key themes.

Rather than glorifying violence, the film demonstrates the importance of kindness and the power of love. This is seen most clearly in the friendships Katniss develops with two of her fellow tributes.

Given the popularity of the books, the buzz surrounding the Hunger Games film is not surprising. But with its strong themes and engaging characters, The Hunger Games is a rare blockbuster—one that's both entertaining and thought-provoking.


On Wednesday, March 28, 2012, Jac said:

I think a review on this movie is a great idea!!! Look at the reaction it's gotten, as Salvationists we can choose to bury our heads in the sand or at least be a little informed about the movie. The movie is breaking box office records, and whether or not I agree with the violence in the movie I think it's good for me to have a synopsis at least of this movie that millions of people are seeing, as Lisa says it can be a great discussion tool.

On Wednesday, March 28, 2012, Kirk MacLeod said:

So are we saying that ALL movies are bad???

I have not read the book and have no real intention in seeing the movie so I'm really not in a position to comment on it. I read a review of the film on the Focus on the Family website and it lists several positive things about the movie (particularly the morality of the main character) although it does express concern about the level of violence.

But isn't it rather a bit much to label ALL movies as being evil?

What about Chariots of Fire?
The Blind Side?
Soul Surfer?
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe?

My wife and I have taken our kids to many excellent movies with great messages. Pixar movies happen to be some of our favourites. The Lorax was a wonderful movie that taught the importance of taking responsibility for your actions.

Surely we can separate the wheat from the chaff?

My Mom grew up in the age when Salvationists did not go to movies and girls were chastised for wearing make up. She's been a loyal and dedicated senior soldier for 49 years. She has often said that a lot of her friends were driven out of the corps by people who were not very tolerant and based their religious convictions on legalism rather than on the leading of the Holy Spirit. Please understand that I am definitely not labelling anyone here a legalist, but I often wonder if we tend to romanticize the past of our Army.

If our churches are half filled, I doubt it has very much to do with going to the occasional movie. More than likely it is because we have sat back in our halls and expect people to come to us. We have neglected to engage the world for Jesus Christ. There in lies our REAL problem.

On Wednesday, March 28, 2012, Lisa said:

Being the youth pastor/children's ministries director at my corps I feel that this movie (though I'm not thrilled about the violence aspect of the movie and the killing of children/youth) can be an opportunity for discussion with our youth. I have read the book and my eldest daughter has seen the movie with her school class - yes this book is a novel study for the grade 7's in her school. This has caused some great opportunities for me to share with my daughter what we as Christians - not salvationist stand on the issues portrayed in the movie.

As a youth pastor it is good for me to know what is going on in the lives of my youth and what interests them and gets their attention. This doesn't mean that I to read every book or see every movie that comes out geared to that demographic but I need to be up to speed with my youth and snubbing my nose up at movie that they are excited about seeing isn't going help me build those relationships. I need to take the time to learn and understand where they are coming from and why such a movie interests them.

This movie can be an open door for discussion and an opportunity to teach or re-educate our youth on the Army's stand/doctrine/beliefs etc... Don't dismiss this movie - this could be a real opportunity to reach out to our youth and their friends. Make it work for you - not against you. It is already in the schools and we must deal with it the best way possible. I'm not going to encourage my youth to go see this movie, but if they choose to that is their decision and my hope is that they will take it for what it's worth and it will open doors for ministering to them.

It's your call - but will your attitude towards this movie or other movies work for you or against you? What message are you sending to those around you?
Just sharing my thoughts.

On Tuesday, March 27, 2012, Concerned said:

"Engaging culture"? "The Hunger Games"? Please. Judging a film without even seeing it? I shudder to think of the logical conclusion of this argument. Maybe we should all go back and re-read the Articles of War we all signed.....and what we promised...covenanted....

The purpose of this website should be to stimulate debate consistent with the Army's mission. No one is suggesting "cutting ourselves off" from the very people we are trying to reach. The reasons our halls are emptying and young people are leaving in droves has nothing to do reviews of questionable movies. In fact, one could argue in the larger context that it is the very LOSS of distinctivenss that has emptied our Y.P. halls...

I for one won't be going to the movie. I've judged ( just like I judged it was wrong to become intoxicated without trying it, etc..) that to go would be inconsistent with my Christian and Salvationist beliefs and practices, not to mention a waste of my time and money. I don't need to see it to know that.

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destuction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it" ( Matthew 7:13-14, NIV)

Have fun at the movie!

On Tuesday, March 27, 2012, Philip said:

markbraye raises a good point. Judging a film without seeing it is like saying "I don't like pancakes" when you've never had pancakes.

That aside, I appreciate the earnestness in the above comments, but I think your anger is misguided.

When you refuse to engage with culture, you cut yourself off from the very people you're trying to reach. And at a time when churches are losing young people like crazy, ignoring an insanely popular film/book for teens seems downright irresponsible. [Consider: in the U.S., 5-10% of people have no religious affiliation, while 30-40% of young Americans have no religious affiliation.]

Since the very beginning, Christians have used "secular" culture as a stepping stone for reaching out to non-Christians. In Acts 17, Paul "reasons" with the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers--he knows their philosophy and he engages them on their territory. And then uses an example from the Athenian culture (the altar for the "unknown god") to speak the truth about Jesus.

Jesus says that He is "the Way, the Truth and the Life" (John 14:6). Because Jesus is Truth, all truth is God's truth.

Yet, us Christians do not have a "monopoly" on truth. We can learn things from people who aren't Christians--in fact, we do all the time! Scientists, teachers, artists--many of the best are not Christians, but that does not mean should ignore them. Albert Einstein was not a Christian--does that mean we should reject his theory of relativity? Of course not.

Works of art--films, books, etc.--can teach us things. I think that's at the heart of what the reviewer of The Hunger Games is trying to do. She's trying to show how the film/book can teach viewers about important themes--social justice, love and friendship. And as for the violence, notice that she writes:

"The violence portrayed in the film is disturbing because violence is supposed to be disturbing. This is one of the story’s key themes. Rather than glorifying violence, the film demonstrates the importance of kindness and the power of love."

Plus, Jesus Himself was not afraid to use violence in His stories (parables) to illustrate a point. Consider the parable of the Good Samaritan, who is beaten repeatedly and left for dead (Luke 10) and the parable of the Wicked Husbandmen (Luke 20, Mark 12, Matthew 21), who kill the vineyard owner's servants and his son.

Sorry for the long comment! But I think Christians need to go beyond "knee-jerk" reactions against "secular" culture and really look at how we can engage culture.

On Tuesday, March 27, 2012, Concerned said:

I haven't. But if you can convince me that it would be a prudent and God glorifying use of my time and money, that it would make me a better Christian and Salvationist, improve my knowledge of Scripture, deepen my daily walk with Christ, enhance my spirituality and theological understanding and otherwise simply lift my spirit in this weary world I'll consder it.

Until then I maintain that the Army has no business reviewing movies on its website..particularly one as obviously violent and disturbing as "The Hunger Games"

On Tuesday, March 27, 2012, markbraye said:

for the folks who are taking offense to all this "Hunger Games" conversation...

have you read the book or seen the movie?

On Tuesday, March 27, 2012, Concerned said:

Tend to agree with you, Ron Anthony.

I am saddened and shocked that as a movment the Army and in particular this website would publish a review of "The Hunger Games"

I am at a loss as to how a review of the movie in any way furthers our mission to "Save Souls, Grow Saints and Serve Suffering Humanity"

And I shudder to think of what a member of the public who supports our mission financially would think......

On Tuesday, March 27, 2012, Concerned said:

As a child going to Sunday school, Directory and Corp Cadets I had the supposed "violence" or "wrath" of God explained to me by loving, caring Christian, Salvationist parents. Later that role was supplmented by Sunday School teachers ( dare I use the term "Company Guards"???), Corps Cadet Guardians and Directory leaders. In time other questions were answered by Corps officers. If they did not know they could certainly point me in the way of suitable resources.

Not a problem, markbraye, not a problem at all.

On Tuesday, March 27, 2012, Ron Anthony said:

No more bonnetts. Really? Has The Army actually changed in its mission, Dare we suggest that the mantra of no movies, cards, jewellery etc of the past be held firm no matter the changing world. Is the uniform becomming less and street dress more the case. What is lost and what is gained when we make these changes?

We must adapt, but let us not become as the world. Let us be different as Christ was different and paid the price for it. Is there not enough opportunity in this "tech age" to speak that which needs to be said rather than change our stance on violence, child abuse etc? This acceptance of going to movies is an open invitation to folks (young or old) to eneter the realm of satan's domain. God Himslef (not just we mortals) knows the problem of TV, twitter, facebook etc etc is having on our young people. Must we endorse it?

Just asking????

On Tuesday, March 27, 2012, markbraye said:

i wonder, Henry and "Concerned," how you feel about children reading about the violence in the Old Testament.

On Monday, March 26, 2012, Concerned said:

Yes, the Army has come a long way. As a child and young person growing up we were warned against going to movie theatres. Now there are reviews of most questionable movies on the Army's web site. Makes one wonder whatever happened to "being in the world and not of it"

And then we bemoan our loss of distinctiveness......and our half empty buildings.......


On Saturday, March 24, 2012, shelley Jahrig said:

This sounds like a wonderful film to see. The article was well written and gives just enough to spark an interest and not too much so as to ruin the story. Is this film out in the theatres yet?

On Friday, March 23, 2012, Henry Armstrong said:

Still cant understand why The Salvation Army is promoting a movie with so much killing in it. As kids growing up in The Salvation Army the officers put the fear of God in us kids if we went to the theater. I will take many of TSA teaching to my grave wondering what was so bad then and ok in the 21st century.........................

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