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article imageOp-Ed: The Hunger Games, book vs. film

By Mindy Peterman     Mar 28, 2012 in Entertainment
Does The Hunger Games film compare favorably to the book? The answer is yes with a couple of quibbles thrown into the mix.
A major challenge in adapting an established and much loved book series to the screen is deciding which elements of the story can be omitted without compromising the integrity of the story. In movieland, screentime is limited, which is one reason the final Harry Potter book was adapted for the screen in two parts (that and the obvious big money opportunity).
The Hunger Games is the latest successful book series to undergo a film transformation. Basically, director Gary Ross gets it right, perhaps because he and Billy Ray co-wrote the script with author Suzanne Collins. Having the person with the original vision on board is always a plus.
In The Hunger Games film, the violence and the sociological message of Collins’ book have not been downplayed. If anything they have become more powerful because the principal actors and impact of the visuals correspond so well with the author’s imaginings. The bloody battles between the tributes and horrors such as the attacks of genetically altered wasps known as tracker jackers pack a wallop when played out onscreen.
However, as much as I enjoyed how The Hunger Games made the transition from book to film, I had two minor problems with the movie.
Before the protagonist Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) enters the arena, her mentor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) teaches her that the most important thing to look for when she arrives is water. In the book, Katniss has a difficult time with this. In fact, it is a problem that lasts long enough to see the character nearly incapacitated by thirst. Not so in the movie where Katniss discovers water almost immediately upon entering the playing field. She fills her flask and off she goes. What compelling scenes might we have been treated to had Katniss been challenged by this problem? The writers missed a glorious opportunity to add additional drama and tension to the mix.
My second quibble involves the character of Haymitch, who is the only surviving tribute from Katniss's District 12. As Katniss’s mentor he has to do all he can to prepare her for the Games. The problem is, Haymitch is an alcoholic. In the book he spends much of his time in a whiskey soaked haze. Only at the beginning of the film do we see any indication of Haymitch’s alcohol abuse. Once Katniss starts preparing for the Games, Haymitch sobers up and is instrumental in giving her proper mentoring. For me this was an injustice to the story. In the book, Haymitch was unpredictable. You never knew whether he would be awake and alert enough to help Katniss, or if he was even aware of how she was faring. This added a certain tension to the tale, which was missing from the movie. In sobering Haymitch up, the screenwriters took the easy way out.
Those nitpicks aside, the film complements the novel well. It is a good movie on its own but to fully appreciate Collins’ tale, reading the book prior to watching the film will give you more insight into the compelling and often disturbing story.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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