To the surprise of absolutely no one, the MPAA has rated The Hunger Games: Catching Fire PG-13, ensuring that youngsters — and, more importantly, their allowances — will get the chance to pad box-office returns.
The official explanation for the rating is “for intense sequences of violence and action, some frightening images, thematic elements, a suggestive situation and language.” This list of moderate elements makes it sound like the board was bumping the film up from a tame PG rather than down from a rougher R.
Again, this is no surprise. Producer Nina Jacobson told Entertainment Weekly as early as last year, months before filming even began:
“Suzanne [Collins] wrote these books for young people to be able to read them and discuss them and engage with them, and we would never make a version of the movies where they couldn’t participate in. They were the ones that started all of it and I think they deserve to have the movie be made for them to be able to see.”
Still there is a significant downside, because film is a visual medium; what was “seen” in the mind’s eye while reading becomes much more literal — and forbidden — when put onscreen. That means that the most famous scene in the book — the stunning introduction of Johanna Mason — will have to be compromised for the big screen. Assuming it’s even in the movie.
It also means that, as in the first installment, we’ll see neutered battles to the death with all the blood offscreen, even though all of the victors reaped for the Quarter Quell are adults. I’m sure there will be lots of shakycam, in a bid to distract you from the fact that you’re not seeing anything.
I’m disappointed by this rating only in the sense that I was being a crazy dreamer, hoping for the best. I never expected to get the R rating my fantasy version of the flick would require. Still, wouldn’t it have been great to see the grown-ups fight it out to the bitter end? The cornucopia bloodbath could have lived up to the name!
But that was never going to happen. Not when there are preteens to be lured in by a love story between movie characters with no chemistry played out by actors who share even less. Seriously, Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson practically looked like they were in pain when their characters so much as held hands in the first flick.
And things don’t stand to get any better in the future. The studio is plowing ahead with plans to take Mockingjay, the worst and the most plot-starved book in the trilogy, and somehow make it into two movies. Talk about story padding! And if The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 is expected to garner no better than a PG-13, I wonder if the-powers-that-be plan to keep that very, very awful and tragic plot twist in the script? Surely it would traumatize the target young audience.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opens Nov. 22.