Should Kids See The Hunger Games: Catching Fire?
The much-anticipated second installment of The Hunger Games series, Catching Fire, hit theaters on Thursday and is already expected to be one of the biggest blockbusters of the year. Adapted from Suzanne Collins’ best-selling trilogy, the movie is extremely faithful to the book and should satisfy both fans of the first movie and avid readers of the source material.
The Hunger Games book series has been a hit with adults, teenagers, and even younger kids and tweens; however, even if kids have already read the books, parents should carefully consider whether they’re ready to see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
Director: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth, with excellent supporting performances from Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, and Philip Seymour Hoffman
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some frightening images, thematic elements, a suggestive situation and language
Run time: 146 minutes
The backstory, and where Catching Fire picks up:
(Spoilers if you haven’t seen the first Hunger Games or read the books)
In a post-apocalyptic nation called Panem, 12 districts are forced to participate in an annual death-match known as the Hunger Games. As punishment for a previous rebellion, Panem watches the televised Games, as children from each district viciously kill one another and try to survive.
Despite a rule that there can be only one Tribute left alive, Katniss and Peeta, two teenagers from District 12, managed to both survive, thanks to quick thinking on Katniss’ part.
Now though, the Capital isn’t so pleased with their ploy, which has been perceived by some in the districts as an act of rebellion against the Capital’s totalitarian regime. As rumors of an uprising spread and the Districts begin to show signs of rebellion, the Capital’s Peacekeepers respond viciously, with beatings and executions.
Thanks to a convenient rule known as The Quarter Quell, Katniss and Peeta find themselves heading back to the arena, this time to compete against the winners of previous Hunger Games.
What parents should know about The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
I would certainly recommend seeing the first film before this one, as it is a sequel and backstory is not provided. Personally, I always prefer to read the books before seeing an adaptation, but if you haven’t read them, the movies are still enjoyable.
The first Hunger Games film, and the book upon which it was based, made many people uncomfortable with intense depictions of children killing children. This time around, the only minors involved in the Games are 17-year-olds Katniss and Peeta.
The movie is no less violent however, and even if your child has read the books, parents should consider whether they’re ready to see the movie. Seeing violence on-screen is a far different experience from reading about it, and may affect children more.
The movie is not particularly scary, though its dark themes and violent content may scare young kids. One scene involving a pack of murderous monkeys made this blogger jump, and may be too much for little kids to handle.
Each kid is different, and parents know their kids best, but Catching Fire is probably best suited for kids at least 12 or 13. Some younger kids/tweens who have read the books and seen the first movie may also be able to handle it.
For parents, the violence is by far the most questionable aspect of this film, and the main reason for the PG-13 rating. Though some of the more severe violence is implied and takes place off-screen, we still see a good amount of blood and death.
We see one character whipped, his bare back bloodied, while another character is later shot, execution style. The camera cuts away, but it is obvious what has happened. Characters are stabbed, shot, beaten, poisoned, drowned, and mauled by animals, both on-screen and just off-screen.
One character lets loose a string of bleeped-out expletives, including the f-word. Later, another character says s—t.
The Katniss-Peeta-Gale love triangle heats up in this movie and the teenage characters exchange a number of passionate kisses. Johanna, a female victor, flirtatiously asks Peeta What’s it like to have everyone in the Capitol want to sleep with you? and undresses in full view of several characters. We see only her bare shoulders and back, and the reactions of the other characters.
Drug and alcohol content:
Haymitch, a mentor to Katniss and Peeta, was established early on in the series as an alcoholic. He is seen drinking throughout the movie. Katniss takes a drink at one point in the movie, and other characters are seen drinking at parties. It is mentioned that two of the other victors, The Morphlings, are addicted to a painkiller.
Can kids learn anything from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire?
As a big-budget Hollywood movie, it would be a stretch to call Catching Fire educational. However, the movie’s themes open the door to some great philosophical ideas that parents and teachers can discuss with kids. A few ideas for conversation starters, inspired by the movie:
- If your kids have read the books, compare how the book and movie were different. What changes did you notice between the two? Did the characters look and act like you pictured them? Do the Capital, the Districts, and the Arena look like what you imagined?
- Talk to kids about the political themes in Catching Fire. What type of government is depicted in the movie? (Democratic? Monarchy? Totalitarian?) What does the movie have to say about that kind of political system? Can you think of any real-life countries you’ve learned about in history that had a similar type of government?
- What message does the movie send about duty and making sacrifices for the greater good? What does Gale mean when he says it can’t be just about saving us anymore? Do you think he and Katniss made the right decision when they did not run away? Why or why not?
For older/high school students:
- Is Katniss a good role model? In what ways is she similar or different from other depictions of female characters in books and movies?
- Is Panem a dystopia? Why or why not? If your student has read other works of dystopian literature in school, like 1984, Brave New World, or Fahrenheit 451, talk about what similarities or differences Panem has to the societies depicted in those books.
Looking for another movie to see? Check out some of our other recent movie reviews for parents.
Ashley MacQuarrie began writing professionally more than ten years ago and has covered education, technology, current events, pop culture, and other topics. A former homeschooler, she studied English and Film & New Media, graduating with a bachelor's degree from San Diego State University. Ashley has classroom experience working with children who have autism and other special needs. She has also tutored students from kindergarten through college and taught English to teens and adults at a language school in London.