Suzanne Collins wrote a series of books about war that are often unrelentingly brutal. Is it worth turning them into movies that the MPAA would balk at?
In his positive review of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the second installment in the franchise, David Edelstein noted that there's one instance where the movie falls short. "It’s too bad that, like its predecessor, Catching Fire doesn’t convey the full horror and injustice of each combatant’s death at the moment of killing," he writes. "That’s what you feel in a great war movie, whereas, in the end, The Hunger Games trilogy is just good dystopian pulp. It’s likely that the violence has so little sting because of the studio’s need for a PG-13 rating, which has the paradoxical effect of making murder less upsetting and therefore more family friendly."
Now, this is not a new criticism of the franchise. Back when the first film came out, our Richard Lawson wrote: "boy if Ross and his producers don’t, in an effort to appease censors and whoever else, totally denude the story of its most important aspect."
When it comes down to it, Catching Fire does do a much better job of at least establishing the emotional, war-like, stakes, if not actually showing much blood. The Catching Fire team, led by new director Francis Lawrence also pushes the MPAA's envelope in other ways. The cursing in Johanna Mason's outburst during the interviews before the start of the Quarter Quell—the Games that make up the heart of this story—were bleeped out, but we know from Philomena that two F-words can get you an R. Though we don't actually hear Johanna say the offending word, the sentiment is there.