3 Stars – Thought-provoking
The second film in the Hunger Games series continues the horrific conscription of young people as “tributes” to fight to the death in order to provide food for their people. This horror has been perpetrated for 75 years and the “celebration” of this anniversary is not lost on either the oppressive government or the oppressed people. This is why when Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) were finally able to beat the game in the first film, they became a symbol of hope. It is this hope that has fueled rebellion against the government in the districts and scares President Snow (Donald Sutherland), so he puts in motion a plan to not only kill them both but also to squash the hope they inspire in the twelve districts.
Based on the books by Suzanne Collins, this second film utilizes the nuanced skills of Director Francis Lawrence. Known for such films as Water for Elephants and I Am Legend, Lawrence is already working on the next two films in the franchise. Lawrence replaces Gary Ross who directed the first film and is known for Pleasantville and Seabiscuit. Ross did an admirable job in the first film, but there is a marked difference in this next chapter under Lawrence’s direction as the story becomes darker.
With a pathos reflecting her trapped situation, Katniss continues to be a pawn in the government’s reign of terror. In response to her popularity, President Snow and his new game director (Philip Seymour Hoffman) hatch a diabolical plan to force all the champions of all the former games to fight one another on this 75th anniversary of the games. The twist they do not realize is that most of these champions are actually supportive of the rebellion and respect Katniss for her integrity and the leadership she provides through the hope she reluctantly inspires.
We won’t spoil the story by revealing the plot except to note that the underlying theme of control through fear with just a dash of hope is not only disproven as a workable policy in these films but also by history. Any government that enslaves and impoverishes a portion of its people in order to allow another group to live in opulence is headed for rebellion. The injustice of such inequity is something people are willing to die to change, yet the gap between the wealthy and the poor grows globally in our day. That injustice is a concern our artists are bringing to our attention and we do well to heed their warnings. The moral messages of this film continue to rest on the heroine’s self-sacrificing love and commitment to her family and friends, her refusal to be forced into destroying others at the risk of her own life and her courage to keep her integrity against all pressures to do otherwise.
Discussion for those who have seen this film:
1. How do you help solve the inequity of wealth and resources in our world?
2. The Bible explains that Faith, Hope and Love are what remains when everything else passes away. How have you experienced each of these and how have you experienced them being threatened by people like President Snow?
3. It is difficult to imagine being forced into a situation where you have to kill another human being to survive in a game. But the reality, as President Snow explains to Katniss, is that the “hunger games” is not a game. How do you think governments manipulate their people to get them to kill other humans? What are you doing to help stop this?