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.
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.
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.
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!