Is The Hunger Games Movie Better Than the Book?

30 Mar

Back in November, I wrote about my excitement for the Hunger Games movie, and my hope that it wouldn’t be a total flop or butcher the story too much.

I went to see  it on Wednesday.

It was a very interesting experience for me because though I read the books, it’s been a while. I only had a vague memory of the general storyline, but as I watched, the scenes came back to me like a half-remembered dream (apologies for the cliche, but that’s how it felt).

I didn’t like Katniss Everdeen in the book version. In fact, it’s probably safe to say that I actively disliked her. I don’t remember why, but it might have had something to do with her prickly personality. Katniss, as portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence, is much more likable. Possibly because the audience can’t tell what she’s thinking. The reaping scene where she screams, “I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!” gives me chills every time I watch it.

katniss everdeen the hunger games

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

Peeta Mellark was probably the most unsteady character. At times he was charming, genuine, and hilarious. At other points, though, the acting fell flat. I like Josh Hutcherson, but I couldn’t help feeling like I was watching an actor recite his lines.

josh hutcherson the hunger games

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark

I was surprised to find that I liked the Head Gamemaker, Seneca Crane, he of the weird beard (I mean, check that thing out). Not so much in his role as gamemaker, when he’s trying to kill children. But in his scenes with President Snow, the character undergoes a marked transformation; he becomes unsure of himself, vulnerable, and that’s a testament to Wes Bentley as an actor.

Wes Bentley the hunger games

Wes Bentley as Seneca Crane

Caesar Flickerman, the blue-haired TV personality, added much-needed comic relief. He managed to be funny and empathetic while interviewing 23 potential victims and one eventual victor. In a way, he’s the most sadistic element of the Hunger Games.

Stanley Tucci the hunger games

Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman

Gale is Gale. He wasn’t featured much at all in this first installment, but he’s as I imagined him: big and hunky.

liam hemsworth the hunger games

Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne

As to the controversy over Rue and Cinna being black, all I can say is that Rue is adorable (especially when she smiles), and Cinna is perfect.

Amandla Stenberg Lenny kravitz

Lenny Kravitz as Cinna & Amandla Stenberg as Rue

I almost view the Capitol as its own character. It and everything that comes with it is, in a word, magnificent. The absurd and colorful makeup and clothing, a la Lady Gaga, the extravagance, and the future technologies were all breathtaking.

elizabeth banks the hunger games

Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket

There’s a reason I haven’t mentioned Haymitch yet. He’s very heavily tied into the question:

Is the Hunger Games movie better than the Hunger Games book?

No. But it’s the best adaptation I could have hoped for.

One way in which the movie was more impactful than the books: even though it was PG-13 level violence, it still felt more overwhelming to watch than it was to read. The horror of kids killing kids struck me in a way that the books never did.

However, at (almost) 2 1/2 hours long, the movie couldn’t possibly be any longer, which might be why a number of things were changed or left out.

The books delved much more deeply into the characters. There were two points that most stood out to me.

  1. Katniss and Peeta’s relationship: In the movie it appears that Katniss warms to Peeta’s charm and, though she might have been encouraged by Haymitch and the circumstances of the Hunger Games, she’s grown genuinely fond of the guy. That’s nice. But that’s not what happens in the books. In reality, their relationship is far more complex. My friend, Miriam Frank, explained it thus: “Throughout the story, she’s conflicted about it, because she likes him, but she also has to pretend to be in love with him. She’s forced to be further along in the relationship than she wants to be.” So the whole time she’s wondering if it’s real. The movie ends simply with Katniss and Peeta standing before their district, arms raised and hands clasped together. Simple. In the book, Peeta puts his hand out to Katniss and asks, “One more time? For the audience?”

    peeta and katniss hunger games

    Katniss & Peeta (not the hand-holding scene I mentioned)

  2. Haymitch: Haymitch, Haymitch, Haymitch. In the book he’s a terror. Drunk. Obnoxious. The worst mentor imaginable…and eventually he matures as a character. In the movies, Haymitch starts off that drunk/obnoxious…and then miraculously transforms into a mostly pleasant guy for the rest of the movie.

    Woody Harrelson the hunger games

    Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy

I also didn’t like the use of shaky-cam footage during some of the action scenes – it wasn’t easy to see what was going on, and made my head hurt.

Overall, great movie. Love the actors and loved seeing the book translate to the big screen.

Read the books.

Watch the movie.

Which do you like better – the book or the movie?

*Check out my other movie reviews!*

9 Responses to “Is The Hunger Games Movie Better Than the Book?”

  1. Devorah April 18, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

    Great post!

  2. Anonymous April 7, 2012 at 11:51 pm #

    The book was a running monologue in a 16 year old girl’s head (aka “clarissa explains it all”) in a gladiatorial setting. No description, no feelings; just plot. The movie was actually a believable story. The director and screenwriters filled in where the author failed by adding in detail and emotion. What I’m saying is that I completely disagree with you. Book=bad. Movie=good.

    • iknowwhathuntsyou April 8, 2012 at 9:21 pm #

      Well, we actually don’t disagree completely – I really like the movie, too. I just feel that the movie was a bit more tidy and Hollywood-y (specifically with regard to Katniss and Peeta’s relationship) than the book.

      • Jeszie April 11, 2012 at 6:32 pm #

        I completely agree with u

      • iknowwhathuntsyou April 11, 2012 at 6:34 pm #


    • Anonymous April 12, 2012 at 1:25 am #

      Finally! I agree with you, man.

      • Jacob October 29, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

        The only way I think the movie could have done a better job, would have been to not make the movie at all.
        I am no 16 year old girl, but the book was really intriguing, and really drew my attention. The movie….not so much.
        Besides for the lack of character development, the lack of interwoven relationship complexities, they just told the story (or tried to). Without the good bits! What were they thinking?

      • iknowwhathuntsyou October 29, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

        That they want to make money? 😉 I think it really helped that a lot of time passed between when I read the books and watched the movie.

Whadya think?

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