The opening of the film version of the “The Hunger Games” became one of the most awaited events of the year, thanks to the fans of the stars with major roles in the movie and the book fanatics of the The Hunger Games three-book series. At least one day after the international movie premiere, criticisms and reviews were released regarding the cinematography and other aspects of the movie.
One of the most controversial issues regarding the movie was the comparison between the original The Hunger Games book series and the recently released movie adaptation of the book. The film was actually based on the book itself. It has the same plot and set of characters. Unfortunately, a significant percentage of the audience, especially those who were able to read the whole series was displeased by the outcome of the movie production. They say that the main reason is that the film version of The Hunger Games failed to impart the message that the book was able to. The objective of this paper is to identify and discuss the different reasons behind such reactions from those who watched the movie adaptation of the New York Times bestseller, The Hunger Games.
The criteria that can be used to criticize a book can be totally different from those that can be used to criticize a movie. This can actually be the case if the film version of The Hunger Games will be compared to its book version. Books are usually critiqued based on the plot (does the story has a clear, concise, and at least a realistic plot?), pacing (did the events in the story happen fast or slow enough for it to catch and maintain the attention of the readers?), setting (can the readers vividly imagine the setting of the story based on the descriptions of the author?), consistency (Did the events, plot, and settings throughout the whole manuscript remain consistent?), dialogue (Did the characters had unique manner of speaking just like normal people do?), and point of view (did the author use only one POV throughout the story or was there shifting of POV?) (Morgan 1).
Movies on the other hand can be critiqued based on premise (were there faulty and even unacceptable suppositions throughout the film?), characterization (were the actors able to play their roles with justice and conviction?), structure & plot (did the structure & plot make the whole movie too boring or predictable?), dialogue, scenes (did the scenes contribute to the goal of the movie which is most likely to impart a particular message to the audience?), and visual presentation (did the movie succeeded in stimulating the visual senses of the audience?) (Congleton 1). Books and movies cannot be totally compared due to the fact that they are two different media and so there may be criteria that can be applicable to one but cannot be to the other and then vice versa.
In this case however, the film and the book version of The Hunger Games can still be effectively compared by using the structure, plot, and message or thought as criteria. Since the movie was adapted from the book, one could assume that the structure, plot and most importantly, the message or thought could be, at some point, the same. It is expected however that a movie and a book’s structure, plot, and message can never be completely identical. All that can be done is to review whether the changes done helped the audience understand the story or otherwise.
Differences between the Film Version and the Original Book-series Version of the Hunger Games
The major reason why the film version of The Hunger Games failed to impart the message that the book was able to is the fact that there were some things present in the book that the movie producers were not able to present in the movie. The story of The Hunger Games actually revolved around a girl name Katniss who came from a poor district. They were so poor, she felt like she was obliged to hunt together with her friend Gale in the woods so that she and her family would have something to eat and not starve to death.
The movie describes how a simple little girl could spark and eventually lead a revolution. Some of the major themes of The Hunger Games are death, tragedy, love, and freedom. Now for some reasons, it appears that the movie failed to deliver the message that the book was able to. Below are some of the significant differences that contributed to the movie’s failure to impart the message that it should have.
The Mockingjay Pin
The Mockingjay was originally a type of bird which was a result of a gene modification experiment conducted by a group of researchers from the central district. Unfortunately, the Mockingjay did not meet the expectations of the central district researchers and so they have decided to abort the experiment and eradicate every trace of it. Alas, a certain number of Mockingjay was able to escape in the wild. After several years, the Mockingjay population throughout the whole region of Panem became too large for the government to eradicate.
Katniss has a Mockingjay pin which, based on the book, signified freedom and democracy. In the book, she got the pin because Marge, the daughter of the mayor in their town and her female best friend, gave it to her. In the movie, it was not clearly explained how she got the pin and in fact, the pin’s significance as a symbol of freedom and democracy did not receive the emphasis that it deserves. This is why later on in the movie, some of the audience, especially those who were not able to read the book series were in a completely speculative state. They were wondering what it is that Katniss has that made President Snow and the present Game Master at the reaping explicitly disturbed or at some point, angered by Katniss’ presence. If only the Mockingjay pin was given the right amount of emphasis in the movie, the audience would at least have an idea that the reason why President Snow and the Game Master was so furious of Katniss is because she, together with her Mockingjay pin symbolizes freedom and democracy—two ingredients that could once again, spark a revolution.
The Absence of Avox
An Avox is a servant whose responsibility is to attend to the needs of the visitors, mostly V.I.P.s, of the Central District (Stephen 2-3). One surprising thing about these Avox is that their tongue is cut, rendering them unable to speak forever. Such torture serves as their punishment for participating in current and previous rebellions against the central government of Panem. Individuals who tried to run away from Panem but were caught would also be automatically turned into an Avox. In the book, the “Avox” thing was so vivid. Some readers would have probably believed that these people who were turned into Avox are the hardest evidence that there are a lot of people who are eager to flee from the neglectful and oftentimes violent governance of the current president, Snow. They could also serve as a sign that symbolizes how many people dislike or even hate Panem’s president for all the cruel and inhumane things he has done.
There was one passage in the book where Katniss showed her compassion to one of the Avox that attended to her needs while she was staying inside her room. Apparently, she knew that Avox but could not remember where they met. Such incident inspired Katniss to do her best in the reaping, where she could end up dead should the odds turn out to be not in her favor. Unfortunately, the Avox scenes were not emphasized in the movie. In fact, they were not mentioned at all. If only the Avox were there, Katniss’ act of defiance against the rules of the reaping (when she strongly encouraged herself and Peeta to eat the poisoned berries so that no winner could be proclaimed at the reaping) would have been more justified. The Avox could have served the same purpose that they served in the book—they signify the Panem’s residents’ dislike and hatred towards President Snow and his colleagues.
The Gift that Katniss Received after Rue’s Death
During the reaping, sponsors (technically those who are not involved in the reaping and are outside the arena) could help their bets win in the reaping by sending them particularly useful items which can be bought for a very high price. Usually, the residents of the district where a particular contestant belongs will be that contestant’s sponsor.
However, this was not the case when Rue (from District 11) died despite Katniss’ (from District 12) efforts to save her. In the book, Katniss almost immediately received a bread as a sponsor’s gift from District 11—Rue’s home district. This can be seen as a sign that shows how residents of other districts are becoming more and more aware of Katniss’ heroism.
In the film version of The Hunger Games, this was entirely not present. This could once again keep the audience guessing why President Snow and his co-officials are trying everything that they can to turn Katniss’ down in the later parts of the movie and possibly in the next The Hunger Games movie sequels to come.
Little to no Information were mentioned about the Structure of Panem
Knowing the present structure of the districts in Panem can be very significant if the focus would be on reviewing the “revolutionary” central theme of the story. In the book it was clearly described that there are currently (at that time) 12 districts in Panem which were arranged according to wealth. Meaning, district 1 would be the wealthiest while district 12 would be the poorest among other districts.
In the movie however, little to no information were mentioned about how the districts of Panem were structured. As a result, some of the audiences were not able to get where this and that particular contestant came from. Some who seem to have believed that Panem is just Panem as it is and that it is not divided into one central district and 12 other sub-districts would also be completely clueless why the government is trying to host a game wherein the contestants try and are actually required to kill other contestants in order to survive and win the game.
This is one of the biggest failures of the movie because instead of focusing on the real structure of the story based on the book, the film version of The Hunger Games focused more on the love story between Katniss and his accidental reaping partner, Peeta.
Areas where the Movie Excelled in
While most The Hunger Games fanatics would completely dislike the way how the film version of one of their favorite novels turned out, there are still some areas where the film version of The Hunger Games excelled in. The Hunger Games, even just the first of the three books, tries to tell a very long and complex story of a girl named Katniss Everdeen and how she won an extremely dangerous game of death. Being able to fit her story alongside with other major and minor characters’ in an approximately 150 minute movie can already be considered a huge success.
Yes, there were indeed loopholes and even errors made in the process that were unfortunately evident in the film but the movie was still professionally adapted from the book. Some unnecessary scenes that would have resulted if the producers enacted a 100% book adaptation policy during the film-making process were efficiently cut. The result was a compact, integrated film version of The Hunger Games.
Based on the evidences gathered, it clearly appears that the movie has more loopholes than areas of excellence, considering the overall message that the original book series tries to imply. The movie unsuccessfully delivered the same thought or message that the book was able to deliver. Nevertheless, the producers of the movie still managed to create a compact and integrated The Hunger Games masterpiece.
Congleton, P. A Film Critics Guide Book. Critics Corner. 2012. Web. Accessed May 2012.
Morgan, T. Nuts and Bolts of Critiquing. Fiction Factor: The Onling Magazine for Fiction Writers. 2001. Web. Accessed May 2012.
Stephen, K. Book Review: The Hunger Games. Entertainment Weekly. 2008. Web. Accessed May 2012.