Troubled by teen violence in ‘Games’

Published 10:14 am Wednesday, April 18, 2012

by Chuck Lilley

Rating: THREE thumbs up out of a possible five

“Hunger Games” struck me as a combination of George Orwell’s “1984” with Big Brother orchestrating citizens’ every move and Samuel Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” with its child-savagery. Stir in a hedonistic, gladiator contest from Ancient Rome, and you have the basic brew for the film.

Helen Reddy’s hit song “I Am Woman” of yesteryear would have also made a fitting ingredient, due to the film’s lead character being a plucky, 16-year-old girl.

Many will derive sensory enjoyment from this science-fiction film, as it abounds with plenty of action. What is disturbing is that all of the action is among teenagers, locked in mortal hand-to-hand combat, while the adults in charge view the teen mayhem through large-scale TV screens. I suspect if you enjoy viewing either reality TV such as the series “Survivor,” you will find “Hunger Games” satisfying. For the more politically inclined, the film is ripe with symbolism. The prefix “anti” comes to mind: anti-war, anti-adults and anti-government, a little saliva for both Republican and Democrat.

The opening narrative tells of a North American civilization destroyed by a violent uprising. Twelve satellite districts arise from the ashes and forge a new nation, Panem, which is controlled by an oligarchy. To demonstrate loyalty to a decadent, ruling class, citizens within each district are required to sacrifice one teenage family member to participate in the annual Hunger Games. The Games unfold as a deadly contest of survival with only one winner.

As the story unfolds, Katniss and her male, teenage counterpart depart District 12, an impoverished coal-mining region, toward the Capitol, where all contestants must quickly become proficient in primitive weaponry: swords, spears, knives and the bow-and-arrow. Olympic-style pageantry, mob-like feasting and high-tech circuitry are all initial elements of the opening ceremonies, as the participants are fattened up and paraded before the callous crowd.

The acting with Jennifer Lawrence as the resourceful heroine, Katniss Aberdeen, is quite good. Stanley Tucci’s (“Pelican Brief,” “Julie & Julia”) humorous exaggerations as a “game” show talk host, resplendent with a multicolored bee-hive hairdo, reminds us why he is among Hollywood’s best character actors. Donald Sutherland, he of the melodic voice, is the sinister, liberty- squelching president. Woody Harrelson creates a memorable role as a disheveled alcoholic who sobers up sufficiently to provide guidance to Katniss prior to her perilous contest.

“Hunger Games” is based on the first novel from a trilogy written by children’s book author Suzanne Collins. It is a creative, imaginative story. Collins adapted the book for the film, and given its opening commercial success, movie sequels of the two subsequent novels, “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay,” will undoubtedly follow. Despite the engaging tale, responsible parents should find the PG-13 rating appropriate because of the sadistic teen savagery.

CHUCK LILLEY is a Franklin resident and retired corporate manager. His email address is