Australian Council on Children and the Media

Hunger Games, The

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Not suitable under 13, Parental guidance to 15 (Themes; Violence; Disturbing scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Hunger Games, The
  • a review of Hunger Games, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 26 March 2012.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not suitable due to themes, violence and disturbing scenes
Children aged 13-15 Parental guidance recommended due to themes, violence and disturbing scenes

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Hunger Games, The
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes and violence
Length 142 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The Hunger Games is set in the future where a post-apocalyptic North America, now called Panem is divided into 12 districts, most of which are poverty stricken. The 12 districts are controlled by a totalitarian government lead by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and an affluent minority, who are comfortably situated in Capital City.  In an attempt to intimidate the masses, and as a reminder of past failed rebellions by the districts inhabitants, one female and one male between the ages of twelve and eighteen years referred to as “tributes” are chosen by lottery from each of the twelve districts to compete in the  annual ‘Hunger Games’.  This is a televised battle to the death where the 24 tributes must fight each other until only one remains alive.

When Primrose Everdeen (Willow Shields) is selected as the female tribute from district 12, her sixteen-year old sister Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her place. PeetaMellark (Josh Hutcherson) is selected as district 12’s male tribute.  Peeta has known and lived alongside Katniss all his life.

When they arrive at the Capital, Katniss and Peeta are befriended and assisted by former games winner Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) and games stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravitz).

When the siren for the 74th Hunger Games sounds the bloodbath begins with Katniss and Peeta forced to fight and kill in order to survive. However, the final outcome is not what President Snow or the games promoters expect.   

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Totalitarian government; corruption, poverty and oppression; fighting to the death;

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

The film contains segments of intense violence involving Hunger Game contestants viciously slaughtering each other with a variety of weapons including hunting knives, swords, spears and arrows as well as being physically bashed to death. However, the onscreen violence/blood and gore is mostly or inferred or depicted as obscure, quick glimpses.

Examples of the more brutal and explicit violence include:

  • A brief image of a teenage boy bashing the head of anotherboy with a house brick. The dead body of the boy lies on the ground with the second boy standing over him holding a very bloodybrick in his hand.
  • A flashback image of a mother yelling at her son and slapping him across the face.
  • As the Hunger Games start 24 teenagers, ranging in age from 12 to 16,  run for a collection of supplies and weapons.We see quick images of stabbing, hacking and slashing with large knives, with blood dripping and spraying. By the end of the scene 12 competitors are dead, lying on the ground with their bodies and clothing splattered with blood and their eyes open.
  • An older boy brutally kills a youngerboy by using his hands to twist the boy’s head around, snapping his neck.
  • A boy throws a spear into a young teen girl’s chest.She grabs the spear and pulls it from her chest leaving a bloody wound. Katniss holds the young girl her in her arms as she dies with her eyes open. After the girl dies Katniss has an emotional breakdown crying in anguish.
  • A riot scene involves people smashing windows and setting fire to buildings with riot police using batons and water cannons to repel the rioters.
  • A teenage girl slashes at Katniss’s head with a hunting knife,causing a bloody wound. The two girls wrestle each other to the ground with Katniss’s attacker head-butting her and then holding a knife across her throat.
  • A boy pulls the girl off Katnissand brutally slams the girl’s head several times into a wall, killing her.
  • A boy attacks Peeta with a sword while on top of a shelter then attaempts to strangle Peeta. The boy then threatens to jump off of the roof of the shelter into a pack of savage animals waiting below taking Peeta with him. Katniss shoots the teen in the hand with an arrow causing the boy to fall from the roof and we hear the sounds of the animals below savaging the boy.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of eight, including the following:

  • Katniss runs for her life from a forest fire with large fireballs hurtling towards her as burning trees and branches fall in her path. She eventually escapes the fire by jumping into a pond of water.
  • Katniss cuts a tree branch holding a wasps nest. We are told that the wasps are genetically modified and that their venom is extremely painful, causes hallucinations and sometimes death. As the nest hits the ground it explodes amongst a group of Hunger Games participants and the wasps swarm over themas they scream and run away. A girl is covered in wasps and we later see her dead body lying on the ground with the results of hundreds of wasp stings.
  • After being stung by the wasps, Katniss hallucinates and has a flashback of her father death; we see images of miners descending into a mineshaft by a lift followed by a large explosion and fireball that destroys the mineshaft and mine entrance.
  • We hear the threatening sounds of predator animals in the dark and hear the sounds of a teen male screaming, the inference being that the teen was attacked and killed by the predator animals.
  • A pack of large animals chaseKatniss and Peeta through the forest. Katniss and Peeta just manage to climb up onto a shelter with the animals snapping and clawing at them.
  • Brief video images depict war violence including flames, explosions, soldiers carrying weapons and piles of human skulls.
  • During an escape from a forest fire Katniss receives a leg wound, we see graphic images of a large bloody wound and see Katniss wincing and shaking from pain. Peetaalso has a bloody leg wound.  He suffers from fever as the wound becomes infected.
  • We see a quick glimpse of a boy being savaged by a pack of predator type animals, hear him pleading for help and, as a mercy killing, we see Katniss shooting an arrow at him. We do not see the boy actually shot but his death is implied.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned images.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned images.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Some children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above mentioned images.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

The film contains occasional low-level sexual references. Examples include:

  • In a couple of scenes teens refer to Peeta as “lover boy”. Katniss and Peeta are referred to as “star crossed lovers”.
  • We hear Hunger Games promoters discussing the  promotion of ‘young love’, referring to Katniss and Peeta, in an attempt to please the crowds.
  • After seeing Katniss kissing Peeta on the cheek, a man asks, “You call that a kiss?”

Nudity and sexual activity

The film contains occasional implied nudity and some low-level sexual activity. Examples include:

  • We see a teen girl and boy lying on a table being washed by a hand held shower.
  • In a couple of scenes we see Katniss kissing Peeta passionately.
  • Katniss falls asleep while lying against Peeta with her head resting on his chest. 

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • In several scenes we see the character Haymitch Abernathy drinking alcohol and acting in a mildly intoxicated manner. When asked why he came to one event Haymitch says it was because of the free drink.
  • Several dinner party and celebration scenes depict adults and teens drinking brightly coloured drinks.

Coarse language

The film contains a few very mild curses and name calling.  Examples include:

  • "Oh my god”, “Stupid”, “Little punk”, “What the hell?”, “Damn life”.

In a nutshell

The Hunger Games is an action adventure based upon a series of teenage fiction books by bestselling author Susanne Collins. The film is emotionally intense, violent and thought provoking and more suited to older adolescents and adults. The film closely follows the book, but younger children aged ten to thirteen years who have read the books and coped with them may not be prepared for the film’s violence and its level of emotional intensity, and as a result find it disturbing and upsetting.

The main messages from this movie are:

  • Oppressed peoples by who are given hope, or a cause to believe in, will find the strength and determination to rise up and rebel against their oppressors even if it means sacrificing their own lives.
  • People should hold on to their humanity regardless of the costs.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Self sacrifice: both Katniss and Peeta put their own lives on the line a number of times to save others. 
  • Family love: Katniss is depicted as having taken risks as well as putting her personal happiness aside is order to care and provide for her family (mother and younger sister).

Parents may wish to discuss with their children the dangerous nature of a voyeuristic society, and how the society depicted in The Hunger Games parallels our own - for example,in child TV reality shows such as Scorpion Island where children are pitted against each other in an elimination process.   

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