There is an interesting review of The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 over at the Acton Institute that is worth a read. I saw the first of these films but wasn’t especially grabbed by them, they don’t really seem mu cup of tea but this review from Dylan Pahman has made me think perhaps I should rethink that earlier appraisal and give them a go.
While some would criticize the series for lack of depth, “Mockingjay, Part 1,” offers more than just a shallow cast of good guys vs. bad guys, acting as a window into the messy realities of tyranny, class, and freedom.
The Hunger Games books and films have generated some controversy, as Kenneth R. Morefield noted in Christianity Today, “Would it surprise you to learn that Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy has been one of the ten most frequently challenged or banned books in schools and libraries for three of the last four years?” But Morefield isn’t convinced such worries are warranted: “did you know my thesaurus lists sixteen synonyms for ‘innocuous’?”
He goes on, however, to add his own assessment of the franchise’s artistic merit:
You can make some legitimate artistic criticisms of The Hunger Games. But when you get right down to it, those criticisms basically boil down to the fact that it isn’t highbrow.
Well, neither was Star Wars, the franchise The Hunger Games most resembles. Both are about rebellions against a non-descript political tyranny. Both are driven by love triangles that ground the epic stakes in human emotions. Both boast better actors than we’re used to seeing in these kinds of movies. Both sparingly but effectively use villains who scare us because of just how much they terrify our heroes. Mostly, though, both are thinly plotted serials that serve as an excuse for linking together battles, escapes, rescues, and romance.
I should be clear that Morefield does not really consider this a fault, recommending the film as a conversation starter for connecting with the young adults in one’s life enthralled with Collins’ fiction. I would second that. Yet — and perhaps this is only a small quibble — I would not describe the films and books as “thinly plotted serials.” (I have my own criticisms, but they fall more on “Part 2.”)