The Hunger Games – Movie vs Book
I finally got to see The Hunger Games movie last night after reading the book last week. As a writer I don’t do internet piracy and it only got released here in Japan on DVD on Jan 16th. It’s also been compared to my book The Tube Riders so I was pretty excited to see it.
Quite often after watching Harry Potter movies people would say to me, “You should read the book”. I can understand why now. The HG movie didn’t suck, in fact it was quite good, but it did omit or gloss over quite a lot of content and there were sections that I probably wouldn’t have understood had I been watching without having read the book first.
(warning – spoilers coming up)
What I liked
The bleakness of District 12. It was pretty realistic, as was the almost absurdly colorful Capitol. It was teeny and fantastical yet believable.
The telling of the backstory. The book is from Katniss’s point of view which meant it was necessary to fill in the backstory and the wider world in a certain way. Explanations of things such as the sponsors and the arena, while brief, were done quite well.
Jennifer Lawrence. She really is a great actress. She’s not especially good looking and also has the perfect level of awkwardness to portray Katniss from the books. She was also really good in The Winter’s Bone.
Effie Trinket. In the books she becomes something of a comical airhead idiot but in the movie she was a cross between creepy weird and hot.
Donald Sutherland as President Snow. In the books (okay, I’ve only read 1 & 2 so far) Snow is a non-event. He has a typically unspectacular young-adult name, doesn’t really do anything and isn’t particularly sinister when he shows up. In the movie he was way better. He didn’t really do a lot but what he did was great.
Rue. She was dead cute and her death was really sad, even if she had way less screen time than she has in the books.
What I didn’t like
The portrayal of Peeta. Yeah, so Josh Hutcherson is the heart-throb of the moment and all that, but his character didn’t really have any meat to it. The movie conveniently forgot about him killing the girl at the campfire in order to make him look nicer. He also wasn't shown fighting off Cato, nor was there any explanation as to why he was hurt. He also didn’t seem to be particularly sick after his leg was half chopped off.
The omission of certain details. Clearly the movie was made on a budget, but where were the hovercrafts to pick up the bodies? The mutts went from being really scary representations of the dead tributes to being rubbish computer-animated dogs.
The bread-throwing scene from the backstory. Shown as flashbacks, it forgot that Katniss was supposed to be a near-starvation twelve-year old and instead had her at the same age, looking despondent as she leaned against a tree. A big scene in the book was made kind of irrelevant in the movie.
The camera work. Arty, POV or whatever, the shaky camera did my head in. I hope they stop that for the second movie, but I think it’ll get worse if anything.
Gale. He did nothing except look moody a few times. It would have been easier to understand if the complex relationship between the two leads had been explained properly like it was in the book, but he just looked like a pouting extra from Buffy the Vampire Slayer inserted to play a jealous boyfriend, and if I hadn’t read the book that’s what I would have assumed he was.
Not a bad movie, but the book was better. It probably would have benefited from being a bit longer. I’ll still watch the second one though. I gather there’s a bigger budget this time around, which should make some difference.