Hunger Games: Is the Movie as good as the Book?
Hollywood has been adapting books to the big screen for as long as there's been Hollywood. Gone With the Wind, The Caine Mutiny, The Wizard of Oz, and oh hundreds and hundreds more. Hunger Games took only two months to make it to the New York Times Best Seller List AND stayed there for over 100 consecutive weeks, which meant a lot of people were reading it. One year later production rights were purchased.
So what is Hunger Games all about anyway? It's a post-Apocalyptic story of suppression, hunger, and reality TV. The dust jacket on the hard cover version states;
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by the twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games.
"Themes of government control, "big brother," and personal independence are explored amidst a thrilling adventure that will appeal to science fiction, survival, and adventure readers. The suspense of this powerful novel will keep the reader glued to the page long after bedtime."--VOYA, Deborah L. Dubois
Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy is now Amazon’s top-selling book series of all time, outselling the seven-book Harry Potter series, the online retailer announced today. That takes both physical and e-books into consideration. Hunger Games achieved its Amazon milestone with three books over four years compared with J.K. Rowling’s seven over the course of well beyond a decade. (deadline.com, ‘Hunger Games’ Trilogy Outsells Harry Potter’s 7 Books On Amazon, by the Deadline Team)
The Story (Background)
The story of the Hunger Games is told by sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen. Katniss, her mother and her sister live like all the others in District 12, a hard life. Food is a rare commodity so it is eaten sparingly and shared when possible. The difference in the Everdeen house is Katniss defies the rules and goes outside of the fence to hunt with her 'friend' Gale. "In the woods waits the only person with whom I can be myself. Gale." He is her friend and confidant and just maybe a little more.
The book starts on no ordinary day, it is the day of the "Reaping" when children (referred to as Tributes) are chosen for the Hunger Games. Katniss fills you in on the goings on in District 12. She explains the "tesserae" a thing that is worth a meager year's supply of grain and oil for one person. When you get more tesserae your name is entered into the reaping drawing a second time. You become eligible for the reaping at twelve and once you turn thirteen your name is entered twice and so on. Then add your tesserae and like Gale, your name could be entered forty-two times, raising your odds of being picked.
You immediately realize Katniss' devotion to her little sister Prim (full name Primrose) and her disdain for her mother. The explanation for that comes later when you learn that after her father's death in the coal mines, her mother withdrew from living and left Katniss to look after Prim and make sure they all had food.
The drawing for the Hunger Games requires all of the eligible children to be nicely dressed and to meet in the Town Square. The Mayor and Effie Trinket, District 12's escort (with her pinkish hair and spring green suit) sit on the podium with two clear balls. The balls are filled with the children's names; one for the girls and one for the boys. Effie begins, "Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor!" Ladies first. The name called is Primrose Everdeen. Kantiss is breathless and totally stunned. As she regains her composure she runs forward and volunteers to take Prim's place. The boy's name, picked from the ball, Peeta Mellark. Kantiss thinks of how she knows this boy and how he was once nice to her. She doesn't want him picked but is equally glad it isn't Gale.
Now the journey begins. The good-byes limited by the Peacekeepers who only allow a few moments. Gale comes to say good-bye as does Peeta's father. Then Katniss and Peeta are put on a train (fancier than anything they've ever seen) headed for the Capitol built in a place once called the Rockies.
Katniss and Peeta are escorted by Effie and their mentor Haymitch. Everything that is done is televised on huge screens throughout all of the districts. As they ride the train they see the re-broadcast of the Reaping in all of the Districts (12 in all) and who their competitors will be. On the train ride we learn more about Haymitch and his drinking, the skills needed for the hunger games, and how to 'act' in front of the cameras. Much goes on during the day long train ride from the Appalachian area to the Rockies. The food is unbelievable and set out in huge quantities...in stark contrast to the hunger they are used to living with.
Katniss and Peeta are awed when they reach the Capitol; its size, the buildings and then the people. A crew prepares Katniss and Peeta for their first appearance...at the Remake Center. All of the tributes are introduced to the Capitol by being especially dressed for their district and then riding in on a chariot.
Enough detail about the background...you can find out more by reading the book. After days of training the Hunger Games begin. Just before the tributes start out to the games a tracker is injected into their arms. This way the Capitol always knows where they are and they can be seen on TV at any time, day or night. This is a fight for survival with 24 competitors and only one winner and every gory detail is televised.
Each tribute has their own talents...some of the tributes are vicious and trained from birth (though it is forbidden by the rules of the game) and others just trying to stay alive. Groups form but as the game progresses they often turn on each other knowing only one can survive.
Katniss and Peeta however begin to form a bond...much happens between the train ride and the end of the games.
To avoid being redundant and boring you to tears I left a lot out about the book figuring I could pick some of it up here as we visit the movie. Of course there are differences, many out of necessity many for better movie watching.
For example, Haymitch is a bit more likeable in the movie but in both the book and movie he helps Katniss and Peeta by getting sponsors who pay to 'drop' supplies to them in the arena, (during the Games) when they need them the most.
There is only a quick scene about Katniss' father's death that, if you didn't read the book, you might miss altogether. All of the characters are well portrayed, especially Effie Trinket. She is so spot on it's like reading about her while you're watching. (Okay in the first scene her suit is green in the book and pink in the movie, but otherwise she's a great adaptation.)
The Capitol is portrayed as one might imagine and the eccentricities of its citizens are also what you would imagine from reading the book. Their voices, the color, their clothes all so silly for a people who want to watch every moment of 23 children dying. Not a happy premise that's for sure but that is what The Hunger Games are all about. It's like the Coliseum of Ancient Rome meets Reality TV.
The official start of the Hunger Games has each tribute standing on a small platform that has risen from the training center up to the arena. The tributes must wait for the signal to leave their platform or they will be blown to bits. The first part of the Games is the supplies laid out at the Cornucopia. The "bloodbath" at the cornucopia is portrayed well in the movie. The only thing missing is what Katniss is thinking. Remembering that Haymitch told them not to go to the Cornucopia but to immediately run the other way. She spots the bow and arrow (which she is comfortable with and good at) and wants to get it to protect herself and help her get food. She is thinking Peeta looked at her and shook his head to distract her, which is not the case as you find out later. Seeing the movie of course, you don't know what is going on Katniss head. She decides to try to reach the bow and arrow, a boy, I think from District 9, reaches the pack at he same time and as they try to wrest the bag from each other the boy is killed by a knife in his back and so begin the Hunger Games for Katniss. A canon sounds as the boy dies. Katniss then fleas as she was told, heading to the woods to look for water.
That night, and every night thereafter the seal of the Capitol appears in the sky and the anthem is played followed by the death recap. The face and District number for each tribute that has died that day are displayed...the first night eleven have been killed. Katniss sleeps in a tree at night to give her an advantage if any of the other tributes sneak up on her in the dark.
There is a center at the Capitol that controls the games and directs tributes where the Capitol wants them to be. It is well portrayed in the movie, very technical and yet scaringly realistic. At one point they start a fire in the forest to drive Katniss back where they want her. This scene is yet another that plays out exactly as you would think when reading the book.
The relationship between Katniss and Peeta goes through many changes during the game...from betrayal to comaraderie to Katniss beginning to feel what she has only been playing at. But, enough is enough in this description. I have taken you through the book and through the movie on a basically superficial note. I think the movie was very well done and very true to the book but now it is up to you to decide. Read the book, see the movie and see what you think.
I hope you have enjoyed my journey into the Hunger Games. Please know, much is missing, but I meant it that way so as not to take the 'fun' out of reading or seeing it. Feel free to comment and/or add any suggestions about the book, the movie, or both. Thank you for reading.
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