By the Book: The Hunger Games

A comparison between book and film. Contains spoilers


Hollywood manages to finally gets a teen novel translation right. The Hunger Games film takes the essence of the books and makes a strong stand alone feature. Unlike Harry Potter, the film is self-contained and one can enjoy and understand it without having read the books. The film’s script stays faithful to the book with most of the changes minor things like the look of the Cornucopia, the dresses for the interviews, and several changes that help move the story along. There are three major differences that make an impact on the story, some in good ways, and others in bad.

The first change is one that does well for the film. The book trilogy was written entirely in first person from Katniss’ perspective. While these allow the reader to experience her thoughts and emotions, but it leaves the reader wondering about what is really going in Panem. The film breaks from this perspective giving viewers a look into other aspects of the Games. We see President Snow and his reactions to Katniss, as well as the Game making process. This allows us to really understand what is going on within this world. The biggest change this takes, though, is when they show District 11 rebel. This is a powerful scene but alters from the story where they send Katniss bread in thanks for taking care of Rue. But this scene lets viewers know that that retaliation is imminent and more is riding on the 74th games than Katniss’ life.

The second big difference takes a rather neutral affect in the film though I am sure the changes to the last day in the arena made some angry. The violence level has been minimized to earn the PG-13 rating it needed for the target audience. It is a harmless change for the majority of the movie showing no one’s actual death but Rue’s and cutting down on Haymitch’s drinking problems. But this change does culminate in one specific incident.

The muttination in the last day of the games are drastically changed in the film. The movie portrays them as some sort of pug/rottweiler mix and incredibly deadly. They are shown being made by the Gamemakers proving they are nothing but a created creature to scare them. But these creatures are nothing compared to those in the book.

“As they join together, they raise up again to stand easily on their back legs giving them a human quality. Each has a thick coat, some with fur that is straight and sleek, other curly, and the colors vary from jet black to what I can only describe as blond…The green eyes glowering at me are unlike any dog or wolf, any canine I’ve seen. They are unmistakably human. And that revelation has barely registered when I notice the collar with the number 1 inlaid with jewels and the whole horrible thing hits me. The blonde hair, the green eyes, the number…it’s Glimmer.”  (Pages 332-333)

In the book it seems that the creatures are manifestations of the dead tributes. They have been created to psych out the remaining tributes. And the plan almost works. Needless to say, the movie veers away from this and also has Katniss kill Cato fairly quickly. Though this makes the scene less psychologically creepy, the scene is still intense.

The last difference is the change that most affected the theme of the book and film. I felt betrayed by the fact that the screenplay did not mention that Panem was set in North America specifically in the United States. Katniss is from the Appalachian area with the Capital being tucked away in the Rocky Mountains.

It seems somewhere along the way, someone decided that stating this would make the film too politically controversial, and with recent events I can see that paranoia. The book is rife with political commentary and conflict. Published in 2009, Suzanne Collins was writing in a post 9/11 world with the Patriot Act in full swing. In an atmosphere of Weapons of Mass Destruction, lies in the media, and the suspension of habeas corpus, everyone in the country has been affected by the changing political/military air. While I am not saying that she is making any specific comment on a particular incident it would be hard to believe that they would not affect the books and their themes.

To remove the idea that the film is making any political statements, especially how our world is affecting our children, seems to go against everything that is put forth in the books. Can’t Americans speak out against the government? Can’t we make a stand? Or maybe, just maybe, omitting this from the film is a statement in itself about what we can and can not say as Americans. (I have recently disregarded this theory. It seems in an effort to rectify this complaint the DVD/Blu-ray description contains the words “in the ruins of what was once North America.” Even the wording of this downplays the political aspects)

The Hunger Games is a fabulous film (unlike the Twilight adaptations) having the merits to stand alone as a movie. But don’t miss the books or you’ll miss out on the depth and philosophical discussions that are the heart of the series which were glossed over in the movies.




2 comments on “By the Book: The Hunger Games

  1. Pingback: The Hunger Games is a Technical Wonder | Stars in Her Eye

  2. I’m about half way through the last book Mockingjay and love the whole series, I’ll be very sad to see it end. What makes the book very real to me, is that I just finished a book called Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. The PBS show Independent Lens will have a related documentary airing early October,

    Reading Mockingjay after finishing Half the Sky, I’m convinced its the same message. How can people of privilege, such as us in the USA, ignore the plight of others suffering to provide us the luxuries we enjoy (gold, precious metals, electronics, clothes)? Well this isn’t the actual focus of the Half the Sky book, but the connection is stark to me. I am wondering if anyone has that connection?

    I have not yet seen the movie to compare, but I’m glad you see a strong correlation.

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