While I don’t imagine that I’ll be talking about movies very much on this website — though I love movies — for my first post outside of shameless self-promotion, I want to talk about The Hunger Games, both the movie and the book.
To begin, I think Suzanne Collins’s trilogy is excellent as a whole. The characters are deep and imperfect, the world is harsh but realistic, and Collins provides an effective blend of action, comedy and drama that makes for an entertaining and insightful read. It’s also not a classic story by any means, and if anything becomes more fresh and original as it progresses, right up to a conclusion that actually caught me off-guard.
The new Hunger Games movie, meanwhile, managed to reproduce some of the elements that made the first novel so excellent. The world is startlingly realistic, to the point that I could very easily see the parallel between our world and the film: the twelve districts look like the poorer regions of the Third World, while the Capital is basically the West (and bears a startling resemblance to Washington, DC). Many of the film’s supporting characters were very effectively portrayed, as well, particularly Haymitch, Caesar Flickerman, and Effie Trinket (though apparently her hair was the wrong color).
However, I left the movie feeling fairly unimpressed. Why? Because of Katniss.
Katniss Everdeen is one of the main reasons why I so enjoyed the Hunger Games Trilogy. She is nowhere near your typical heroine. She’s awkward, reserved, hot-headed at times, and generally unwilling to follow any direction, even if it’s in her best interest. While these qualities may not lend to a likable character, Katniss was able to draw me in (and I imagine other readers, as well) through the poignant, honest and often hilarious narration that pervades the trilogy. While the characters around her scream their frustration as they try to mold her, the readers see exactly what is going on in Katniss’s mind, and we root for her throughout the trilogy because we understand her better than any other character can.
While I could rail against Jennifer Lawrence for failing to properly portray such an intricate character, that would be unfair; I actually think she was able to capture Katniss perfectly. The problem is that Katniss’s character was not made for the big screen, specifically because so much of her characterization in the novels comes from her narration. Only so much of a character’s thoughts can be conveyed in a movie, and having Katniss constantly explaining her thoughts would be totally against her character. Even having read the novels, I found that the movie couldn’t draw me into the story as effectively as the novel could. The enjoyment for me came as much from Katniss’s inner thoughts as the reasons mentioned above, and the lack of these thoughts proved to be too much for me to properly enjoy myself.
In the end, this situation is further proof that, in most cases, the book is better than the movie. This isn’t true in every case — The Lord of the Rings was excellent in both novel and movie form, and I have high hopes for The Hobbit — but for many, if you’re torn between whether to read the novel or watch the movie, I advise the former.
Regardless, I don’t think that this will stop Lionsgate from converting Catching Fire and Mockingjay into movies, or stop fans from going to see them. Viewers who haven’t read the books and are hoping for a more extroverted Katniss Everdeen, however, do not have the odds in their favour.