The Hunger Games: Book vs Movie
Written by Dan
The Hunger Games is the type of book that usually isn’t my cup of tea. I’m more a big fan of books featuring the likes of Jack Reacher and Mitch Rapp, or mystery books such as the excellent series written by Linwood Barclay.
When it comes to anything “futuristic”, “fantasy” or “sci-fi” I usually lose interest immediately. The only book I’ve ever read and enjoyed in that category is Ray Bradburys the Martian Chronicles.
Despite running this popular book site, I really didn’t have any plans to read The Hunger Games. However my wife and I share the same Kindle account, and I had purchased the books for her via it. While stuck on a lengthy layover earlier this month, I decided to give the books a whirl….
…and I was HOOKED. I blew threw the first book in the Hunger Games Trilogy in about 4 hours. I ended up reading and going through the second book, Catching Fire, just as fast. I’m holding off on Mockingjay till later this month, as I have an upcoming flight – so will save it for that.
However this article isn’t about The Hunger Games as a book series. It’s about the execution of the Hunger Games Book into the Hunger Games Movie.
And I thought it sucked.
I’m not saying that the movie itself sucked – just the book->movie transformation executation was very poor.
See, I’ve always loved it when books are turned into movies. It’s really interesting to read the book and then watch the movie, and see the differences. I’m not talking about “Book vs Movie” because we know that 99.9% of the time the book is better. It’s more just what they do when they make the movie, and what changes they make.
Some movies stay very true to the book, such as Absolute Power by David Baldacci. When it’s a relatively cookie-cutter story(not meant as an insult) it can be very easy to do that. The movie stands alone very well, despite remaining very true to the book.
Other movies will make quite a few creative changes. The Firm by John Grisham was one example. While it still strongly resembled the book, there were quite a lot of creative changes – especially during the third act. This played to the strengths that a movie has, and made it a much better movie.
Then you have drastic changes. Again referencing Grisham, you have The Runaway Jury. It’s still based on the book but there were drastic changes. The court case in the book was about big tobacco, and the court case in the movie was about guns. There were also quite a lot of other changes. Many of these were made to play to the actor Jon Cusacks strengths, as he was quite a different person than Nicholas Easter was in the book.
The Hunger Games was a movie that stuck very true to the book – and I feel that was a big mistake.
From here on out – this whole article will contain spoilers. If you haven’t read the book or movie, then stop reading. Bookmark the site, come back later.
The movie stuck to the book practically scene by scene. Yes, they made a few creative changes like eliminating Madge, and used the commentators to explain what was going on during the actual Hunger Games – but for the most part, everything that happened in the movie happened in the book.
Unfortunately, I think the movie made a mistake by not using an inner monologue or some form of direct narration. Many directors and screenwriters probably see that as the “easy way out” – but the movie really could have did with some of that.
Right from the beginning, I was frustrated. The movie didn’t come CLOSE to capturing the atmosphere of the book. The world and district that they were living in didn’t come across as derelict at all. This made other scenes have much less impact – such as the whole Peeta-bread scene. This was a very important part as it told the story of why the stone-faced Katniss had “feelings” for Peeta. But the movie didn’t really establish just how important and crucial that bread was.
The relationships were poorly established too. The movie didn’t establish what Gales relationship with Katniss was – if anything it played it out that they were boyfriend and girlfriend. I also felt it did a horrible job at explaining the relationship between Peeta and Katniss. I heard many movie-goers leaving very confused over that – yet that relationship and dynamic was a HUGE part of the story. I felt the movie really fell short on that.
Then there was Rue. The book did such a phenomenal job at really capturing the essence of Rue and her relationship with Katniss, that I don’t think the movie did. I remember being in absolute shock when Rue died in the book. The audiences reaction was more of an “eh”, for anyone who hadn’t read the books. Now you might be arguing that it’s a movie and that they don’t have the time – but The Hunger Games was about 160 minutes runtime. They had time, believe me.
Then there was the end. They tried to get the idea in the head of the viewers but I don’t think it worked at all – Katniss suggesting they eat the berries just came across as “eh”, rather than the monumental moment that it really was.
I’m not hating on the movie. If you read the book and then watched the movie you probably loved seeing it come to life. The initial scene with the cornucopia was unreal – the direction on that was terrific and really did a great job at showing how intense it was.
But as a story, I feel it fell short.