‘The Hunger Games’ – Book Vs. Movie

Posted Monday, March 26th, 2012 08:00 pm GMT -4 by

As someone who has read and loved the Hunger Games trilogy, I was incredibly nervous that the movie adaptation was going to mess something up.  Would they cast Katniss well?  Would they use CGI sparingly?  Could they ensure that the dialogue didn’t just clunk out of the actors’ mouths?  Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the movie, though I am curious to see what people who haven’t read the books they’re based on think of it.  Here are some of the points that caught my attention.  I’m assuming you have either seen the movie or read the book or don’t care about spoilers if you continue reading at this point.

Effie and Katniss - The Hunger Games movie

Effie and Katniss

First of all, let me gush about what was perfect. The Seam with its dirt and poverty was amazing.  When I read a book, visualizing the landscape and geography is what I have the hardest time with, and the detail for this rundown District was better than I could have ever dreamed.  Also awesome?  How INSANE Cato and Clove are, and how insanely talented those two actors are at showing how crazycakes they are with just a few smug glances.  The movie did such a great job setting up Cato, making him the cold and ruthless killer from the very start – I especially enjoyed the tantrum he throws in training over his favorite knife going missing.  Kudos to the entire cast, in fact.  I don’t think I spied even an extra who didn’t commit wholeheartedly to the story.

The Hunger Games movie

Crazy good acting!

Some things that were changed that I didn’t like: The mockingjays are an important symbol in all three books.  They’re an example of something the Capitol failed at, and by wearing one as a pin, Katniss is reminding them of a time where they were inept.  She doesn’t quite understand this in the book – her friend Madge asks her to wear it into the arena – but I feel like the movie didn’t mention any of its history.  I think this was a lost chance, especially for something that’s going to be so critical later on.  I understand the movie had to whittle the text down, and while I miss Madge and her family’s storyline, I’m okay with her being edited out.  I wasn’t okay with them changing Peeta’s first kill.  In the book, when Katniss is literally up a tree and listening to the careers kill the girl who starts the campfire, the cannon doesn’t sound and they send Peeta back to finish her off, which he does.  This is something I see often in movies, where any questionable things the heroes do in book form are changed or erased to give them a better moral code.  For me, this is insulting, like we as the viewers can’t understand a character with flaws or poor decision-making skills.  Katniss overhearing Peeta say he killed the campfire girl is a pretty big plot point, as well as a good reason for her not to trust him.

Katniss and Peeta - The Hunger Games movie

Katniss and Peeta

I also worried that not enough was explained about Katniss’s sudden love for Peeta.  In the book, because we are in Katniss’s head, we know that she fakes her romance with Peeta in order to win them more silver parachutes laden with treasure.  She develops true feelings for him eventually, but in the arena she has no doubt that she is playing a part.  In the movie she gets a note from Haymitch reading “You call that a kiss?” with the first parachute, but I’m not sure how much that meant to non-readers.  Similarly, I was concerned with how much the violence was toned down.  I know they were aiming for the PG-13 rating, and that was a big concern of mine before I saw the film.  The opening scene at the cornucopia was brutal, but other scenes – Clove attempting to carve up Katniss’s face and mouth, Cato wearing the full body armor so the dogs chew his face off before Katniss takes the mercy shot – were altered just enough to make them less gruesome and offensive, which is the point of the Capitol’s cruelty.  Kids killing kids should be horrible to watch.

Now things that were changed that I loved: in the book Katniss is our narrator, so we don’t get to see the reactions to what happens in the arena, both in the Capitol and the Districts.  District 11′s reaction to Rue dying BROKE MY HEART, though I was sad not to see them send the bread to Katniss like they do in the book.  I liked seeing the Games spur Haymitch into action, sweet-talking sponsors and feeding ideas to the Gamemaker, Seneca Crane.

It was nice to see some of the threads from books 2 and 3 appear in this story: President Snow in his rose garden, the riots breaking out, the harsh ending of Crane.  The moments in the control room where you could watch them design horrible setbacks and atrocities for the Tributes was a nice way to explain the million different ways the Games are unfair and designed to kill you.  I appreciated the subtle touches as well that let me know the filmmakers really thought about what they were doing – Thresh having the sickle, for example, since their District worked in wheat and grains, and the silly fish costumes for District Four in the opening ceremonies, because the Tributes are subjected to ridiculous indignities.  I also liked the addition of Caesar Flickerman addressing the theater audience as if we were the Capitol audience, delighting and sighing over the drama, and paying money to watch kids kill each other for entertainment, because isn’t that what we just did by buying movie tickets?

I could wax on and on, but enough from me.  What were your thoughts on the film versus the book?  What did they change (or not change) that made you happy (or upset)?

And now I’m off to see the movie again!

  • Jlnarkawicz

    I really felt that not explaining the mockingjay was a huge thing, although it could be explained in the second movie. Katniss wearing the pin in itself was seen as an act of rebellion since the mockingjay was an animal that was never supposed to exist and seen as a rebellion to the capitol. The avox can always be explained later, but I do wish they had maybe shown a little more about district 12 and the severity of the starvation and rules. They could have explained the tesserae. Also, the detail of the 13th district being destroyed was never stressed and after seeing it twice, its not stressed upon that the rebellion ended in that, and that is pivotal to the story lines in the second and third books. Lastly, I wish they had put Haymitch in the reaping scene, because it was funny but at the same time, it would have maybe lightened the scene too much. They could have played up the drunkeness just a little bit more and I only say this because it really shows what the Hunger Games did to Haymitch and the effect winning has on a tribune. Also they should have included about Peeta’s leg and Katniss losing her hearing to show the physical along with emotional scars of participating as a tribune

    • Kammecat

       All good points.  I knew about some changes before I went into the movie, so I was prepared for the absence of the avox girl and Madge.  Another thing I noticed after the second viewing was that they mention in the movie that the Games are only two weeks long, whereas in the books they last as long as they need to.  I also liked the juxtaposition of the tributes in the Capitol’s film at the Reaping – very mature looking men and women who look like they’ve been in the Olympics -  in comparison with the real potential tributes – scared and malnourished children.

      Thanks for your comment!  Did you ultimately like the movie or not?

      • Yes. I really enjoyed the movie and thought it was an excellent adaptation. I know some people mentioned it being too bloody, and some not bloody enough but most of the killings were not seen by Katniss, and I personally felt that the sight of the tribunes dead on the ground was more haunting than actually seeing some of their deaths played out. Even having read the books, I felt the movie was suspenseful because you didn’t know what the arena would look like and that scene of her coming up the tube and being blinded by the sun captured that. I thought Lawrence did an excellent job, the cast was great, and my husband felt that Elizabeth Banks really made an impression in the role of Effie. 

        • Kammecat

           I agree!  I thought they did an excellent job!  At this point in my life I’m used to movies not living up to the books they were based on, but overall I think this was pretty faithful.  I’m already making plans to see it for a third time, and I can’t WAIT for the next two movies to come out.

          Thanks for reading!

      • and yes, I think you are right in having the mature looking tributes next to the younger ones really made a statement. Even having Prim look like a young 12 really made that moment when her name was called stand out more, because she looked so young and fragile.

  • Melanie Afshar

    Thanks for this blog post – because I read the book awhile ago and was trying to remember some of the differences so this really helped highlight that for me!

    • Kammecat

       I’m glad I could help!  It had been quite a few years since I had read the books, so I read them again right before I saw it so it would all be fresh in my mind.  Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • briantudor

    Nicely written Kathy! I really only had one gripe. Because it was told in third person and they kept flashing back to 12, the Game Room, the Capital and then 11, it felt like it took away some of the drama and urgency from we feel for Katniss in the book. 

    Part of what I enjoyed in the book is the isolation she felt during the games and the worry she had for her family and Gale. By showing the scenes outside of the arena it seemed to take away from just how alone the tributes really are out there.

    All in all I enjoyed the movie, I would have loved it had I not read the books. I can’t wait to see what they do with Catching Fire and hopefully and extended edition BluRay of this one.

    • Kammecat

      Thanks, Brian!  I liked her isolation in the book, too – part of what amplifies the tension is her worrying about what Prim or her mother or Gale think about what they’re seeing.  I suppose, though, if they filmed the book exactly, it would be a lot of silence while Katniss thought a lot.  They have to find an interesting way to show what we get through exposition in the book – at least, that’s how I made peace with it.

  • Nicolemstanley

    I was disappointed in how the movie ended. In the book when Peeta and Katniss are taken up into the hovercraft Peeta is critically wounded and immediately pounced on by medics. This spurs Katniss into a fit because she can’t think clearly and sees the people as a threat. In the book Katniss needs to be tranquilized in order to be calmed down. I thought this highlighted the culture shock experienced by Katniss as she was returned to the Capitol’s world, and demonstrated how the games affected Katniss emotionally and mentally. I was waiting for this scene the entire time I was watching the movie because I found that it was the emotional climax of the book. I also think they should have shown how much rehabilitation was needed after the arena by Peeta and Katniss. I can’t help but feel a little bit let down at how rushed the end of the movie felt.

    • Kammecat

       Good point!  I also wonder if they’re ever going to bring up Peeta’s prosthetic leg.  In the book Katniss finds out about it at the closing interview, but they didn’t even show his leg getting ripped open again, so I guess we’re supposed to assume it stayed healed from the medicine at the cave.  I’m going to miss that element too – it’s Peeta’s lasting deformity to show how he was scarred by the Games, both physically and mentally.  That being said, I did enjoy the look on President Snow’s face as he walked away.  He’s clearly not buying the romantic act and seems determined to ruin Katniss.

      Thanks for reading and commenting! 

  • Michael

    When the hunger games came out in theaters I never heard of this story before.  A few of my friends saw the movie and said they loved it.  So I went and saw the movie and enjoyed it a lot.  I was a little lost at the end because I knew they left a lot open for a possible sequel.  I got home to do some research and found that it was a book trilogy!  Well fast forward to right now and I have finished the first book.  The entire story makes much more sense and I must admit I want to see the movie again.  There was one thing that I believe the movie failed to do.  

    In the book, it is obvious Katniss is playing along as the “star-crossed lover” in order to obtain rewards from her sponsors.  It’s an act, she doesn’t really love him, in fact she doesn’t even know what love is because she has spent her entire life trying to keep her mother and sister alive.  After watching the movie, (again i want to point out i have never heard of this story before) I left thinking that she was/is falling for him just as he is falling for her.  

    Any ideas on this?  Overall i loved the movie and I am going to start reading the second book tonight; perhaps the other books will answer this question.

    • Kammecat

       I do have ideas on this, but since you’re reading the next 2 novels I’m going to let you find out.  I wouldn’t want to spoil that for you!

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