Note: This review contains spoilers of The Hunger Games movie and book.
When you leave a theater after watching a movie adaptation of a bestselling book, you repeatedly hear audience members lamenting about the differences; how characters are incongruent from how they are described in the book, how key plot points are different or missing entirely, and that “that’s not how it happened in the book.” Audience members are correct in their observations. However, what they fail to remember is that although the same story is being told, the mediums in which they are told are quite different, and you will therefore have different reactions and thoughts about the same subject.
Most authors exercise the option of delving into one or more character’s minds. When reading, you are oftentimes privy to the thoughts of the main character(s), allowing the backstory, the intentions of the character, as well as the character’s emotions to develop through the thoughts of the character. In the book, the reader spent the majority of the time in Katniss’s mind. Through her thoughts, we understood her dilemma with Peeta, the pain and growth she experienced with her father’s death, and her true hatred for the Capital. Although some of the this information was presented in the movie, since we were no longer privy to Katniss’s thoughts, the impact and weight of it all fell through, lessening the pain and fear we felt for the protagonist.
A movie is 100% visual and auditory, whereas when reading a book, the reader only has his/her mind’s eye to draw from. If the author isn’t successful in fully describing a setting or character, the weight of a situation is diminished. When reading, if you didn't fully understand the skills of Peeta’s cake-decorating/camouflage skills, you weren't able to understand how he was able to hide in the bed of a river. In the movie, because it is all visual, you were able to see that his skills were invaluable. Although you might have understood how desolate District 12 looks while reading, the movie was able to bring the true destitution to life. A movie is more apt in describing and showing setting and the physical descriptions of a character than a book is able to.
Books have the luxury of being any length. Movies, on the other hand, tend to be between 1 ½ and 2 hours long. A lot more information can be disclosed in a 384 pages book than in a 142 minute movie. Because of the time constraint, a director and screenwriter have to decide which story to tell. Unfortunately, the story they choose to tell isn’t necessarily the story the audience wants to hear. In the Hunger Games movie, the omniscient presence of the Capital was never fully realized. Although the audience was told why the games take place annually and that a person’s name was added to the drawing each time he/she received additional rations, the extent of the control of the government was not fully discussed. The moviegoer wasn't told that the rations given to the families is not enough to sustain a family, that they had no choice but to ask for additional rations, thereby raising the chance of their child’s name being picked for the games. The audience also wasn’t told that Katniss and Gale hunt illegally when going outside the electric fence, that they risk public punishment and execution by the Capital on a daily basis. Rue’s back story and the amount of peacekeeper control in her district were never mentioned in the movie either. Sometimes things have to be sacrificed when a book is adapted into a movie. I personally wish they hadn’t excluded the infinite threat and presence of the Capital.
As a movie, The Hunger Games was good. As a book, The Hunger Games was great. Unfortunately, a movie has many more constraints in which it has to work than a book does. However, by comparing the two, we are not comparing apples to apples. We have to see them as two separate pieces of art and appreciate each for its own abilities and weaknesses.
So now I’m curious as to what you think. Did you read the book or see the movie? Do you have any complaints or praise?