How The Hunger Games Film Set Up a Big Problem for Catching Fire

Contributed by Alex Rabinowitz

Two guards walk Seneca Crane to an ornately decorated Capitol room. In the center of the room is a decadent, goblet-like bowl. The guards close the door as they leave and Seneca begins to realize his fate. He walks towards the bowl and the camera reveals it to be filled with Nightlock. The rest is implied.

Of all the beautifully handled scenes in The Hunger Games film, this had to be one of the best. It’s one that does so much with so little, at once moving plot forward while informing us on the irony-loving cruelty of President Snow and the Capitol. All that and it’s not even in the book. Katniss, who serves as the first person narrator on paper, tells the reader that Snow surely executed the incompetent Gamemaker, but showing exactly how is something she’d never be able to do.

And therein lies the problem that Gary Ross and company have set themselves up for in Catching Fire. So much of Suzanne Collins’ twisty second book relies on what Katniss doesn’t know. [BOOK 2/3 SPOILERS AHEAD] Readers who have finished the series are aware that by the time the first book ends a rebellion is in motion. Much of its inner-workings happen then outside of Katniss’ grasp before and during the second book. She gets hints of it from Plutarch and scenes on television, but never really puts it all together. Katniss goes into the Quarter Quell with a limited set of information and is largely surprised at the end by a dynamic rebellion-led rescue. The reader is therefore also somewhat surprised and even confused along with her.

Ross and Collins made a very bold choice to fill in the viewer beyond Katniss’s knowledge in the movie version of The Hunger Games. The riot in District 11, private conversations between Snow and Crane, the Gamemaker’s control room, all enhanced the story immensely and made it a better film. There’s no reason this enhancement shouldn’t continue through the series, after all there’s only so much Katniss can tell us. Unfortunately, Catching Fire relies heavily on what Katniss doesn’t know. Is the ending going to be as effective if we already know there’s a revolution brewing and some of our main characters are in on it?

What results is a conundrum of sorts. Frequent Danny Boyle collaborator Simon Beaufoy is penning the adaptation of Collins’ second book and he has a choice. He can either stick with the precedent Ross has set and expand the point of view, or he can buck the trend and bring it back to the first person. Limiting the perspective may end up feeling inconsistent in the overall scheme of things; it could also jeopardize the extra awesomeness the creators can bring that Collins didn’t put in her book. Fans who cried foul at the significant changes made by Ross and company in the first film may lean towards the latter but it could confuse and upset the greater audience.

Thankfully, Beaufoy is a proven talent and will likely figure it out. He had this to say about adapting the book recently, “With this one I had to be a lot more faithful, also because there’s a fan base who are more than usually keen that you get it absolutely right. ‘The Hunger Games’ fan base are passionate beyond anything I’ve ever come across and I’d fear for my life if I get that adaptation

. If I do too free an adaptation than I shall get firebombed. So I’m being really careful about that.” (Crave Online) Sounds good for die-hard fans, just glad that I’m not the one having to adapt the sequel to The Hunger Games.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “How The Hunger Games Film Set Up a Big Problem for Catching Fire

  1. Amritorupa Kanjilal

    I just finished Catching Fire and started Mockingjay tis morning… do you agree with the majority opinion the, Lara, that the movies are better than the books? Am witing till I finish the series before i let myself watch the movie.

    • I don’t think one is better than the other. I loved the books, and I loved the movie. Despite the changes, both capture the story well and I’d recommend both the books and movie to anyone.

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