I'm trying to pin down what I found so horrifying about the movie adaptation. As I was considering, I remembered learning 2 Samuel 2:14 in 6th grade.
Here, too, murder is considered a game. Here, too, there are 24 people who must fight to the death. The difference is that they are grown men and 12 are on Avner's side representing Ishboshes and 12 are on Yoav's side representing David.
I remember that when we learned about the bloodbath that ensued, the teacher pounded it into our heads that this was a horrific tragedy and that both Yoav and Avner die horrible deaths in part because of the fact that they were too lenient with the lives of these men. Even if their intentions were only to have the men duel with one another, the fact that it turned into mass murder was considered their fault.
The difference between "The Hunger Games" movie adaptation and this section of Tanakh is that in the movie adaptation, Peeta and Katniss survive and seemingly, move on. We don't see their remorse. We don't see the nightmares that keep them awake at night. We don't see their grief and horror. We just see them smiling sweetly at Caesar on a talk show and then heading back to their district. We have to imagine their inner torment.
And that's where I think the movie gets it wrong. If your point is to show how violence is wrong and how children should not be in a position where they are killing other children, you can't leave the inner torment to the imagination. You have to demonstrate it. Show it. Let us see the toll it takes to be the survivor, even though the game is not of your making. Let us understand how horrible this is. Don't let our last image be of a triumphant Peeta and Katniss in a big poofy gown and a nice suit, heading home.
Kafka said that "a book should be the axe for the frozen sea inside us." But in order for a book- or a movie- to accomplish this, it needs to really be that axe. "The Hunger Games'" moral should be about the toll and horror that these games take on everyone, even and especially the survivors. Otherwise, what is the point? To have us root for District 12's potential love story? Is everything okay- all the macabre violence I just witnessed acceptable- so long as these two make it out alive?
I find that idea extremely troubling, and I think it is absolutely the wrong message to send to young kids. Perhaps I feel this more personally as someone who has read and learned so much about survivor's guilt due to its prevalence in Holocaust literature. But I think it's wrong to end such a disturbing movie on this seemingly happy note. If you're going to talk about horror, take the horror all the way through. Make it matter. Don't try to feed us the message that everything was bad, and kids killing kids was bad, but it's okay because these two nice-looking kids survived so it's all hunky-dory.
Granted, adults who understand subtleties and nuances will be able to fill in these gaps, but I'm willing to bet that most children won't. And that most kids will just leave talking about the Gale-Peeta-Katniss love triangle, untouched by the carnage that took place before their eyes. Which to me is simply a new means of teaching indifference of the highest degree- ironically, the exact antithesis of the presumed goals of these books and this movie.