The Hunger Games

For the first time ever, I saw a movie by myself on the first day. I felt odd in that everyone else seemed to be under 30 years old, with the majority under 20. Also, everyone went in pairs or groups. There was a group of 27 teenage kids sitting all around me at the 11:30 am showing. But I went by myself, since my wife dislikes violence, especially of teens killing teens.

The Hunger Games is about a fictional futuristic dystonian society where 24 teenagers from 12 U.S. districts (a boy and girl) are chosen by lot to fight each other to the death. This is an annual televised live event, called the Hunger Games, which is for the amusement and entertainment of the people. The lead character, Katniss Everdeen, volunteered as a competitor (Tribute) because her younger 14 year old sister was chosen from District 12. She offered herself in place of her sister.

This is not a movie review. It attempts to explain why this movie and the book has captured the hearts and the attention of millions, with 24 million copies of the book already sold, and an estimated $60 million in ticket sales on just the first day of release. Here are some reasons.

1. The Opulence of the Wealthy and the Powerful

In the Hunger Games, the wealthy live in exuberant indulgent luxury in the capitol, while the masses live in poverty in the 12 districts. The wealthy live lives of the rich and famous. They seem not to have a care in the world (Ps 73:4-5). They are like the rich man in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, “who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day” (Lk 16:19). The desire to be rich and to live in luxury exists in all people. We want to win the lottery, inherit a large inheritance, get a big promotion, make a great investment, and become the next Mark Zuckerberg. We human beings long for this because God created us to live in paradise and freedom forever (Gen 2:8-9, 11-12, 25).

2. The Poverty and Helplessness of the Masses

In the Hunger Games, the President and his oligarchy, virtually control and dictate all the affairs of the 12 districts (Mk 10:42-44), including attempting to influence the winner of the games. In contrast to the rich ruling power, there is the 99%, who have little money and hardly any power or influence. We are filled with anger, a sense of injustice and righteous indignation when we sense the powerful controlling and manipulating the situation to their desired result and their maximum advantage. We loathe this because we are created in the image of God with a strong sense of justice, fairness and equality.

3. The Appeal of Violence and Death

The hardest part for me to watch in this movie is when the actual Hunger Games begin in the last hour of the movie. It is because you are told that there is only 1 survivor out of 24, and you wait to see how the majority of the teens are killed. The scenes were not brutally graphic. Nonetheless seeing or knowing that a teen is killed is still gut wrenching for me to watch. But there is this strange appeal by the masses of society to watch violence, even graphic brutal violence, as entertainment. I have not quite figured out why. Perhaps, some of you may posit an explanation. My shallow reason is the fatalism in all of us that says, “Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor 15:32; Isa 22:13).

4. The Sacrifice of Love (Beware movie spoilers)

For me at least, the major appeal of this movie is the sacrifice of love by the main character, Katniss Everdeen. When she volunteered to take the place of her younger sister, the scene brought forth a compelling sense of humanity as to what a man–every man–should be. He or she should be more than willing to give up his or her life, out of love for another. During the Hunger Games the male counterpart from District 12, Peeta, betrayed Katniss by siding with the clique of the strong competitors to hunt down Katniss. But later when Katniss found Peeta wounded, she helped him survive, despite his betrayal. She also helped and loved a young Black girl the age of her own sister, and she wept for her when she was killed. Through out the movie, her character demonstrates the sacrifice of love for another (Jn 15:13), at great risk and cost to herself.

I really liked the movie (though I felt completely out of place in the theater with most people being 3 to 4 decades younger than I!). I might try to persuade my wife to go see it. But she probably would not. To you movie fans, and Hunger Games fans, what do you think?


  1. I think you’ve missed some big categories.  These books are appealing because of the
    unlikely and reluctant hero,
    the conflict between individual and society,
    the desire to be able to control our lives and our destiny, 
    and our desire to be powerful in some way, to have some kind of amazing skill, and to use that power to change society.
    At least for teenagers, I think they recognize the wealth of the Capitol as a commentary on materialism.  They identify with Katniss and Gale more than any character in the capitol.  I also think there is something about Katniss being a reluctant hero, who reluctantly sacrifices.  I mean, her sacrifice for Prim is a no brainer.  But the rest of her actions, she takes because they seem to be unavoidably right.
    Maybe that is what is most appealing, the fact that Katniss can do what is right, in the midst of a society that is completely wrong, and can win. 
    And the moral of the story?  Love wins.  Love wins over everything, over corruption, over death. 

    • Thanks for sharing Ben, Emily.

      “But the rest of her actions, she takes because they seem to be unavoidably right.”

      I was planning on skipping this one since the movies my kids like usually are not the kind of movies I’m into…but this sentence makes me think that perhaps I should see it afterall.

    • Here’s a nice 2 min review if you’re still not convinced to go see it:

    • Yes I read that review :)  Nothing like a reciprocal link to increase views! 

    • Oops! I actually meant to post a less than 2 min youtube video review by some unknown guy whose link I got from Twitter, and now I can no longer find it, because it had less than 70 views yesterday! But here’s a 7 min interview from the lead actress Jennifer Lawrence:
      But yes, the reciprocal link was surely my subliminal desire to increase views!

  2. Oh…and I love that you went by yourself on opening day.  You are a brave man. 

    • Thanks, Emily, I felt quite “odd,” but for sure I prefer the word “brave.” Yes, your categories surely are spot on, especially the one individual overcoming the powers and principalities of the world.

  3. The Christianity Today review with discussion questions on page 2:

  4. GerardoR

    Reminds me of Maximillian Kolbe who was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. When another fellow inmate was sentence to death, he volunteered to take his place. 

  5. From a review, an excellent point portrayed in the movie (and book, which I did not read) is that a martyr is the greatest threat to the whole dystopian regime. President Snow doesn’t want a martyr. He needs a reality TV star who inspires just enough hope in the working class to keep them subdued and working, but not enough hope that they rise up.

  6. An amazingly educated and historical 10 min movie review that addresses scapegoating and human sacrifice:

    I got this link from John Armstrong’s review: