The Hunger Games: Book vs.. Movie
Ever since the book has been published in September 2008, the Hunger Games had been hitting the top list of best selling books in about 40 countries and has been translated into more than 20 languages. It had received a number of awards and honors and was well-received and acclaimed by various critics with its addictive quality, brilliant plot and great pacing. Indeed, the Hunger Games has all the ingredients befitting for the wide screen and the good news was that the much awaited film had been finally released last March 2012.
After the world survived a widespread devastation, a country called Panem existed. The Capitol, determined to keep its power, imposed the Hunger Games over its 12 Districts wherein a boy and a girl from ages 12-18 would be sacrificed by each District to fight in an outdoor arena while the rest of the world watch them until only one kid remains alive. The story was narrated by Katniss Everdeen, a 16 year old girl from District 12, who volunteers to play at the 74th Hunger Games in place of her younger sister, Prim. Also picked from her District was Peeta Mellark, the boy who helped her when her family was once starving.
The 24 tributes were taken to the Capitol, televised and displayed to the audience for betting. In an interview with Ceasar Flickerman, Peeta reveals his long-time love for Katniss, which she took as a strategy to gain audience favor and sponsors who could help them survive inside the arena. Aside from her hunting skills and Peeta’s strength, both could only rely on what little advice they could squeeze out from their drunken mentor, Haymitch Abernathy, previous victor of the Hunger Games from District 12.
A few days of surviving the games, Katniss developed an alliance with Rue, a 12-year old girl from District 11, who reminded her so much of Prim. The alliance was short lived though when Rue got killed by another tribute. In an act of grieving, Katniss adorned her body with flowers which was taken by the Capitol as encouraging rebellion. Loathsome at first with the discovery that Peeta allied with the other mean and vicious Career Tributes, Katniss later learned that it was just another act from Peeta to protect her when he deliberately warned her away and saved her life.
With the audience engrossed by their image of being “star-crossed lovers,” the Game Makers changed rules in the middle of the Games: 2 tributes may win if the pair comes from the same district. Katniss immediately searched for Peeta and found him gravely wounded. As she struggled to help Peeta back to health, she played the role of a girl helplessly falling in love to earn gifts and aid from the entertained viewers and sponsors. When finally they both managed to survive the other 22 tributes, the Game Makers tried to revoke the 2-winner rule in an attempt to make an exciting end to the Games. However, Katniss outsmarted the Capitol by staging a suicide for Peeta and her, thinking that to have no victor would humiliate the Game Makers tremendously. True enough, both were instantly announced victors before they even committed the suicide.
Although they were handled especially as victors in the Capitol, Haymitch warned Katniss that President Snow is keeping an eye on her defiance. To convince them of her innocence in instigating rebellion, she continued portraying that her love for Peeta was the sole reason for her staged suicide. Despite trying hard though, Katniss needed to be more convincing to the Capitol and to Peeta, who learned about her false love and slowly detached himself from her as they made their way back home to District 12.
BOOK VS. MOVIE
Since the setting of the story was difficult to picture, the movie started with a written passage about the post-apocalyptic condition of Panem and how the Hunger Games were given to the 12 Districts. It was a little slow-paced but I have to commend the casting. Almost everyone was close to the characters as they were described in the book, I guess because Ms. Collins herself took part in choosing them, except for Cato and Clove, both Career Tributes, whom I pictured might be someone more vicious-looking. Jennifer Lawrence has the most exceptional character depiction as Katniss Everdeen though.
Several scenes from the book had to be effectively reconstructed in the movie such as the scene where Katniss sings a lullaby to her younger sister on the day of reaping. The heroin in the book hardly sings ever since her father died but this adaptation was useful as it connects the part when Katniss sings the same song to the dying Rue. However, the omission of the character Madge was somewhat disturbing because her importance was discarded when in fact, the symbolic Mockinjay pin was a token from her. Still, they managed to shift the credit to Prim, which I think is an effectual alteration of the story. Then there’s the technical part (with computers similar to the movie Avatar) showing how the Game Makers manipulate the tributes inside the arena, which could not be illustrated in the book because it was written from the heroin’s view point. Another decent modification was the uprising of the people from District 11 upon Rue’s death and their appreciation of Katniss’ brief lamentation both efficiently shown but would not be revealed to readers until later in the second book.
At a different perspective, the movie was able to reveal the talents shown by each tribute to the Game Makers, which were a secret to Katniss in the book. Other scenes had been perfectly translated as they are such as the the famous girl-on-fire costume during the Tributes’ parade which initially brought favor to Katniss and Peeta’s remarkable frosting talent as he disguises himself in the arena while nearly waiting for his death.
Despite the preceding aspects of the movie which were highly deserving of praise, several heightened parts in the book were also not fairly represented. First critical scene should have been the picking of Prim’s name at the reaping. In the book, Katniss related her shock as when she fell from a 10-foot tree, the impact was so great she could barely breathe. I guess that was the down part with having read the book. I was expecting that same impact I felt when reading it but everything was just so silent if not a bit slow, that I was mostly disappointed with the actual scene. Even the part when the Game Makers revoked the 2-winner rule to compel Peeta and Katniss to kill each other had very weak impression. Katniss did pose her arrow over Peeta’s heart but only because she suspected him to assault her too. This part is necessary because it emphasizes Peeta’s love as he intends to give up his life for her until the end. Only because of shame did Katniss resort to a resolution: the staged suicide with poison berries. In the book, they had actually put the berries inside their mouths before both of them were finally announced as victors, so they had to spew them afterwards. In the movie though, they were just holding them out on their hands. I know I shouldn’t be too specific with this but I just felt that this could have added better to the suspense. Trouble in the movie though, there was no nearby water to wash their mouths after spewing those poisonous berries.
Another crucial information that was clearly complicated to emphasize in the movie was Peeta’s value in Katniss’ life. Watching Peeta throw those burnt bread in Katniss’ direction implied that he was feeling pity rather than affection. It is therefore difficult to relate that Peeta gave her the hope to live. Also, his character was not as noble as in the book. At one point, he even seemed fresh like when he took Katniss’ hands during the parade telling her that the audience would love it. Holding hands was not his idea but Cinna’s.
Overall, I have to contend that I find the book better than the movie, maybe because the movie was not able to capture all the details in the book. But then again, there are actually some movie tie-in editions that I like better on screen than on print. The Hunger Games might not be on that list nevertheless, I’m still a fan of it. For now, after reading the entire trilogy at an addicted pace, I’ll be anticipating for the next movie renditions of the other books and won’t miss it for sure.