One year ago, I read and fell in love with Suzanne Collins‘s bestselling Hunger Games trilogy, so I was certainly ecstatic to learn it would be adapted into a movie. As soon as I discovered the cast of the movie, however, I was extremely disappointed. The actors and actresses chosen did not, in my opinion, accurately resemble the characters they would portray. Nevertheless, I was eager to see the movie adaptation, and so, on March 23 at 12:01 am, I watched The Hunger Games unfold onto the big screen.
Overall, I was ambivalent. I appreciated the filmmakers’ decisions to broaden the story’s point of view; however, many elements from the book were displeasingly eliminated in the movie.
The movie opens with a written explanation of the Hunger Games: a punishment for the 13 districts’ uprising against the central Capitol in the post-apocalyptic country of Panem. The 13th district of Panem was destroyed during this rebellion, leaving only 12 districts to participate in the Games. Each year, 24 tributes, one male and one female from each district, are chosen to compete in a fatal fight on live television . In the end, only one tribute is alive.
After this brief explanation, the movie jumps to a scene in which the Capitol’s talk show host, Caesar Flickerman (played by Stanley Tucci) is interviewing the 74th annual Hunger Games’ Gamemaker, who designs the arena where the tributes will compete. Although this scene and the opening explanation are not present in the book, I feel that it was a good decision to begin with them. They clarify to the viewer that although the story of The Hunger Games centers on Katniss, The Hunger Games extend far beyond this one protagonist. This explains why Katniss constantly thinks of herself as a pawn in a bigger game.
When the focus is not on Katniss, we see (in the movie) some scenes of the Seneca Crane and his assistants controlling different aspects of the arena on a large, digital screen. These scenes offer a broader, enlightening view of the Games that contrasts with the book’s single perspective. But several parts of the film did present the Hunger Games through Katniss’ eyes. When Katniss is stung by tracker jackers (genetically-engineered bees whose stings can cause hallucinations or even death), the viewer sees only her hallucinations as the images on the screen become distorted and oddly colored. I especially enjoyed that filmmaking decision because it preserved the narrating role that Katniss had in the book.
As I discussed earlier and in a previous article for The Hewitt Times, I was very concerned with the casting decisions for this movie–and rightly so. Jennifer Lawrence, with blonde hair and fair skin, looks older than 16-year-old, dark-brown-haired, olive-skinned Katniss. Lawrence dyed her hair and got a tan, but she still looked way too mature to fit the role and to0 healthy to be living in the poorest area of Panem, where many people starve to death. Additionally, she lacked both emotion and the correct expressions to convey the character’s feelings and experiences. I was also unhappy with Josh Hutcherson as District 12′s male tribute, Peeta Mellark. Hutcherson dyed his natural brown hair to become blonde, but there was, unfortunately, nothing he could do about his short height. Peeta is supposed to act as Katniss’ guardian angel: a taller, protective figure. But not only do Lawrence and Hutcherson share the same height of 5 feet 7 inches, Hutcherson lacks the commanding presence needed to convince the viewer of his protective power.
Moreover, the movie excluded or changed several important scenes and elements of the book. For example, in the book, Katniss’ Mockingjay pin–the object she brings into the Games as her one allotted token and, in later books, a symbol of rebellion–is given to her by the mayor’s daughter, Madge. In the movie, Madge’s character is completely eliminated. Instead, Katniss finds the pin in District 12′s black market. The elimination of Madge removes an entire subplot from the book, one which particularly intrigued me. Additionally, in the book, when Katniss and Peeta are in the final throes of the Game, a group of wolf-like Mutations (know as Mutts) enter the arena, chasing them and the other remaining tribute. These Mutts are supposed to have been created from the 21 already-dead tributes, each one having the hair and eyes of a different one in addition to a nametag with that tribute’s district number. This aspect of the book really highlights to the reader the extent to which the Capitol members are willing to go (surgically alter dead children and pit them against living children) simply to entertain themselves. Meanwhile, in the movie, it is not clear at all that these Mutts are the dead tributes . They all look exactly the same and do not have any nametags; the filmmakers missed an opportunity to express the cruelty of this world.
I enjoyed the book better than the movie because the book had a compelling storyline and many intriguing subplots and details that the movie eliminated. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the movie, however. I am looking forward to the next two movies, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, but I hope that the elements eliminated from the first movie won’t be detrimental to the flow of the storyline in the next two movies in the trilogy. Also, perhaps the actors will become accustomed to their roles and make their characters more convincing. Despite the flaws in the movie, it was extremely thrilling to be among the millions of fans in the world seeing the midnight premiere of The Hunger Games.
Click here to watch the movie trailer.