*Spoiler alert, if you have not seen the movie or read the book, The Hunger Games, you may not want to read this yet!
Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games has attracted a huge number and variety of readers. My sister bought me the first book, which I devoured in a weekend, then passed on to my friends and parents. Since I first saw the movie trailer at Thanksgiving, I have been anxiously awaiting its release. Opening weekend alone has grossed $155 million dollars, making it the third highest film opening in history. I enjoyed the movie because a lot of things were done right, yet I couldn’t help but notice the pieces that were missing.
In the book, Katniss was given the mockingjay pin from Madge Undersee. The pin had belonged to Madge’s aunt, who had died in a previous Hunger Game. As a reminder, mockingjays are hybrids between jabberjays and mockingbirds. Jabberjays were created by the Capitol during the uprising to memorize the rebels’ conversations and repeat them. The rebels figured this out and fed the Capitol lies. Mockingjays can only repeat tunes, but they are a symbol of rebellion and a reminder to the Capitol of their own mistake. The movie completely eliminated Madge as a character, in turn, eliminated the insight into the significance of the pin. The meaning of the mockingjay was lost on anyone who had not read the book, since it was made to be simply something Katniss picked up at the trading market and gave to her sister, Prim, to protect her.
Another thing that fell short for me was the relationship between Katniss and Peeta. It was not well-developed, which seemed to be an issue because of the constraints of today’s movie run times. Obviously the book has much more time to develop this relationship, but I wanted to see the tension and compassion that Peeta and Katniss felt towards each other during their stay in the Capitol. You never fully get to see the way that they resist getting to know each other, yet seek comfort in each other. The whole thing felt rushed.
Finally, in the film, Katniss’ stylists were left unnamed except for Cinna. I recognize that the stylists were minor characters, but when I read the book I understood that the way that they treated Katniss along with their petty obsessions with the Capitol styles showed the disparities between the Capitol and the districts while also shining light on the horrific lack of humanity found in the Capitol’s citizens. In the later books, these stylists cry over Katniss as they prepare to send her off to another game while their views on the Hunger Games seems to shift into more humane thoughts.
Together, these things left a gap in the movie for me. There were a few other things left out, such as the fact that the mutant beasts that killed Cato resembled each fallen tribute, but there were other things that made up for skipping over details. The movie stayed true to the general plot and I did still thoroughly enjoy watching it. I laughed at Haymitch, I teared up when Rue died, and I jumped when the mutant beast jumped out at Peeta.
One thing that I thought was done exceptionally well was the imagery in the districts. District 12, a working-poor district, evoked images of the Great Depression. Since the Great Depression is associated with such sadness and desperation, I immediately associated these things with District 12. Even though the story is set in the future, it is not overly futuristic to the point that there is nothing recognizable or relatable. It is an interesting blend of future and past — highly technological along with visual historical accuracies.
After Rue’s death, the movie cuts to scenes from District 11, where a riot resembling violent civil rights riots erupts to create another parallel from US history. The Peacekeepers were dressed somewhat like riot police and they sprayed the rioters in District 11 with hoses, just like in the 1960s.
Most of the scenes were just as I had imagined them and I thought the movie kept a good balance between real and futuristic images.
Finally, there were added scenes that were used to expand the stories from some of the other major characters. Getting to see the Gamemakers working in a high-tech room as the producers and directors of this live action reality tv show, deciding what to throw at each tribute, was interesting. The movie did a good job of showing us how the game is manipulated and broadcast, like reality TV. It showed the brutality and heartlessness of the Capitol. It showed us how much the Capitol has control over those from the districts, as did the scenes of President Snow talking to Seneca Crane, head Gamemaker. In the book, we never get to see this happen because we just know it’s going on because Katniss explains it, in first person storytelling.
I loved reading the Hunger Games, they made me think and feel in a way that young adult novels don’t always do. Yet they were written in a way that made them easy to read in a sitting. The movie did a lot of things right, I thought it landed between Twilight and Harry Potter in its quality. Although there are some missing details, this movie is certainly worth seeing.
What were your thoughts on The Hunger Games?