The Book: 2008
Written by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic Canada)
The Film: 2012
Directed by Gary Ross (Lionsgate)
I was so excited to see one of my favourite books, The Hunger Games, on the big screen—and also a bit nervous. There was absolutely no reason to be nervous. The team behind the movie did a fantastic job of bringing Suzanne Collins’ book to life!
Perhaps what I was most anxious about was the way Katniss’ actions would translate to film as most of The Hunger Games occurs within Katniss’ narration rather than being spoken aloud. The writers side-step this obstacle by showing how people in the Capitol react to the games and Katniss’ actions. Honestly, anything to give Stanley Tucci (who plays Caesar Flickerman) more screen time is A-OK with me. And it was interesting to get to see the inner workings of the Games.
I thoroughly enjoyed the sets and costumes; they really helped make the world of Panem real. The luxury and excessiveness of the Capitol is so starkly contrasted with District 12. I loved how the people in the Capitol looked so overdone that it was grotesque at times. And Elizabeth Banks made a brilliant Effie Trinket—she absolutely nailed that role!
In fact, I was pleased with the performances of most of the actors and their interpretations of the characters. However, I was underwhelmed by the film versions of President Snow and Haymitch, both of whom were not nearly as repulsive as they should be.
For the most part, the movie stays true to the book. Some changes are always to be expected but the changes made do not in any way “ruin” the book. I felt very satisfied when I left the theatre. Having read the books twice, I am in no position to say whether or not someone who is new to The Hunger Games will understand everything that’s going on in the film. From the sounds of it though, some details just make more sense if you’ve read the book: Tahereh Mafi said in her review of the film (a review that had me laughing out loud) that her friend left the theatre in “mild confusion, calling the film ‘awesome’ and ‘really great,’ but all the time wondering ‘why everyone kept saying Peter’s name with a British accent.’”
Where the book completely leaves the movie in the dust is the ending. I felt that the movie lost a lot of the urgency and danger that is found in the end of the book. ***SPOILER ALERT!*** In the film, they have Peeta’s leg heal up and I think that was a mistake. In the book Peeta’s life is hanging in the balance—this detail could have really amped up the climax of the film. And how are they going to explain Peeta having only one leg in the sequel? Just exclude that detail? It’s a pretty important development for Peeta’s character and a shame that it was cut from the script. The film doesn’t convey just how much is at stake for Katniss, nor does it do justice to Katniss and Peeta’s complicated relationship.
While I think the film is an excellent adaptation and one that I will watch over and over again, The Hunger Games book just has so much more to offer. Sorry movie, but the book still kicks your blockbuster butt!
Let me know what you thought of this adaptation in comments.
“Popcorn and a Book” is a bi-weekly meme I host where I will compare one book with its adapted film, looking at the content, the way it has been visualized, the experience, etc. If you would like to participate in this meme, please visit the “Popcorn and a Book” main page for details.