Contributed by Sam Smink
At one time there was an uprising in the post-apocalyptic country of Panem, and one of 13 districts was wiped away against the force of the Capitol. To remind the districts of the cost of an uprising, 24 “tributes” are annually shoved into an arena of deadly surprises until only one comes out alive in the Hunger Games.
The film version of The Hunger Games does a great job at establishing the relationship between its heroine, Katniss, and her younger sister, Prim. We witness the first difference from the novel early on. In the movie, Katniss gives Prim the Mockingjay pin to protect her. In the book, the mayor’s daughter, Madge, gives Katniss the pin. But a Madge-less movie makes little difference, especially since it allows us to witness the closeness of Katniss and Prim, further developing their relationship.
Another difference in the movie is that there’s very little setup regarding the District 12 “strategy” that Haymitch develops — a love story between its two tributes, Katniss and Peeta. I wish the film had done more to set up the fact that this was Haymitch and Peeta’s plan from the beginning, particularly since the strategy is what causes Katniss and Peeta to fight at the end of the novel. Therein lies another difference. The movie needed to delve more into Peeta’s anger at the end when he realizes the “love” was all a ruse on Katniss’s part.
There also wasn’t enough background established with the Katniss, Peeta, Gale love triangle. Many of us have been asking ourselves Team Peeta or Team Gale but here, I felt no personal connection to either. In actuality, Peeta’s love is true, selfless and heroic. Here it just seems like any other crush for those who haven’t read the books. They also needed to establish more of a friendship between Gale and Katniss.
As far as the Hunger Games themselves, I sat on the edge of my seat, holding my breath throughout the entire games, despite knowing the outcome from the books. Brilliant film making. The style of the games was shot realistically, so you felt like you were there yourself. Not to mention, the Hunger Games is like a reality show, so the shaky one-camera style fit perfectly. They also did a nice job of showing the violence without overexposing it. The PG-13 rating certainly didn’t diminish the quality. You saw people die; you just didn’t see it thrown in your face.
We learn after the Games that Katniss has put herself in a very dangerous position because her actions throughout the games are seen as rebellious — the start of a revolution. But the film shows us the revolution starts even earlier. After the death of Rue, the movie reveals that District 11 starts an uprising against the Capitol. This is a piece of information that, in the books, is not revealed until Catching Fire. The choice to include it in the first movie in the trilogy, however, is a smart move because it needs to set up for the sequel.
Another difference: Seneca Crane. He was only briefly mentioned in the book as Gamemaker. But in the movie, he gets a pretty decent part. He’s used as a mechanism for describing the evil and power of the people in the Capitol. I think we could have seen a little less of him. Stanley Tucci’s Caesar Flickerman did a well enough job of providing commentary for those not familiar with the story.
All in all though, fantastic work. The actors could not have been better cast, and all the right ingredients were there. It was moving, it was exciting, it stayed mostly true to the book. Everything worked. I’d even see it again, especially since there’s still another year-and-a-half until another Hunger Games. But until then, may the odds be ever in your favor.