Last week, I went with my wife to see "The Hunger Games."
Now, had I been a 10-year-old, and had my wife been my mother, this very act could have been considered borderline child abuse. Because, apparently, if you let your younger children have anything to do with "The Hunger Games," you may as well hand them a pair of scissors and tell them to sprint up and down the stairs.
It's all because of the violence. Which is actually quite refreshing when you think about it, since folks are usually asking how come we always freak out about sex, but we seem to be OK with our children being exposed to any old violent thing.
Well, you'll be happy to know that now we're freaking out about violence, too. And not just any violence, but kid-on-kid violence.
Frankly, the media have been all over this thing like Bella Swan-Cullen on a yearling deer. The Internet is ablaze with arguments over whether "The Hunger Games" is appropriate for some of the younger ages that have been reading it. And now, watching it.
"The Hunger Games" is based on a trilogy of young-adult novels -- written by Suzanne Collins -- set in a dystopian future. Now, by "dystopian future," I can only assume they mean "a better future." Defined, speaking as a veteran father of three, as "one without teenagers."
Because the entire premise of this story is that every year the government randomly picks 24 young people between the ages of 12 and 18 to participate in a televised fight to the death that's a sort of "Gladiator"-meets-"Survivor"-meets-"Celebrity Apprentice."
One winner, 23 teenage corpses.
And therein lies the primary sticking point among critics of "The Hunger Games." It's one thing for adults to be carving up one another like the Butterball at a Thanksgiving dinner. But it's entirely another to have children killing each other. Stabbing. Slashing. Choking. Bludgeoning. Snapping necks. Shooting each other with pointy arrows.
SPOILER ALERT! Virtually all of the two dozen young people in the "Games" end up dying in this movie. And none of them from natural causes, either. Unless being stung to death by genetically altered wasps could in any way be considered "natural." Or being eaten by those same dog-like creatures that went after the Rick Moranis character in "Ghostbusters."
But it's the rampant child-on-child violence that has everyone in a tizzy. Well, that and the black people.
That's right, turns out there's a segment of the reading population that didn't like the appalling fact that there were actual black people in the movie. And they tweeted as much, saying ignorant things like: "Why does Rue have to be black not gonna lie kinda ruined the movie."
Gee, here's hoping these people never stumble upon "The Wiz." (What? Toto's BLACK?)
Of course, there are some positive things about "The Hunger Games." For one, the movie could actually make the sport of archery cool again. Which hasn't happened since, like, back in ye olde days of Robin Hood.
Seeing as how this was the first movie I'd seen in theaters since 2009's "Avatar" (remember the racist idiots who were upset that there were blue people in that one?), the big news, of course, is this: Did you know that they now offer quesadillas at the theater snack bar? Quesadillas, people.
Of course, it being a theater snack bar and all, these tasty cheese-and-tortilla treats will cost you roughly the equivalent of a late-model Volkswagen Jetta. But the point is, they're available for those who can afford them. No longer do we as consumers have to settle for boxes of stale Junior Mints and tubs o' popcorn covered in that radioactive liquid butter-flavored substance when we watch a movie.
Speaking of movies, if I were a film critic -- and I'd say one flick every two years places me squarely in that category -- I'd easily give "The Hunger Games" three-out-of-four overpriced quesadillas.
And the heroine? An amazing character. Not at all like the moody, annoying teenager in the "Twilight" movies, the one who always has that mopey, pained, squinty look on her face, like what she really needs -- more than a sparkly vampire or a chronically shirtless werewolf -- is a really strong laxative.
Indeed, fans are already having "The Argument." You know the one: Like the nerds who insist on debating the outcome of a fight between Superman and Spider-man? (BTW, clear winner? Spider-man. Who doesn't know that Kryptonite is Superman's Achilles' heel? And Peter Parker seems just connected enough to know where to find some.)
So, who would win in a fight between "The Hunger Game's" Katniss Everdeen and "Twilight's" Bella Swan? Pre-vampire Bella? No contest, Katniss. Post-vampire Bella? Still no contest, because a set of fangs and a pair of squinty yellow eyes is no match for a huntress who basically shoots flying wooden stakes through the air at high rates of speed.
Now THERE'S a movie I'd watch -- "Katniss the Vampire Slayer: Twilight for Bella."
Contact the chronically shirtless Mark Saal at 801-625-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.