Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Hunger Games Rant--My List of Grievances

This blog post is my rant about The Hunger Games movie.  While I know everyone has an opinion, I figure if you're reading this you may actually care about mine.  haha  That being said, I realize I'm in the minority when I tell you that I thought the movie had great potential, yet missed almost every single opportunity for it.  This is a terribly long rant (hopefully I don’t bore you!) but I’m really bothered by what I feel was a terrible injustice to the awesomeness of THG books.  Call me obsessive, but here goes!

First, let me start by telling you a couple things I thought the movie did well:

 - The Capitol
As I read THG books, I often had difficulty imaging the Capitol.  Plastic surgery gone bad was the only image I could really conjure up in my head when thinking of all its inhabitants.  Everything artificial, unnatural colors, skin pulled too get the drift.  However, the movie did a fantastic job of conveying just how obscure the Capitol and its people really are.  Now, as I reread the series, I have a better idea as to how foreign that must have looked to Katniss, Peeta, and the other Tributes.

-The Gamemakers
The movie really helped me to envision Panem while viewing the Games.  Throughout the film, Caesar Flickerman and Claudius Templesmith discuss what's going on live in the arena (explaining Trackerjackers to the audience, etc.)  Since the movie was sort of set in the middle of the filming of a reality tv show, I was able to further understand the repulsiveness of The Hunger Games.

However, those were about the only two things I think the movie did well.  Being a BIG fan of the books, there were a few main things I was looking for.  1. The first thing I look for in any movie that is based on a book is how true the movie is to the book.  2.  How would they convey Katniss's thoughts and emotions in the film?  A great part of the books is Katniss’s thoughts, after all.  3. I was hoping they wouldn't botch her relationships with Gale and Peeta.  4. Honestly, I found THG books to be inspiring.  Collins paid great attention to detail in the books and conveyed emotion really well.  I wanted to be just as moved watching the movie.  The potential was there.  Yet I was let down on all four of these accounts.  The movie didn’t stay true to the detail in the books at all!!  Yes, the characters and general plotline were there, but I was very disappointed overall.  Here…my list of grievances regarding the movie untruths:

-Buttercup is not black.

-The bookbag Katniss grabbed at the Cornucopia was supposed to be orange.
-the Mockingjay pin. Katniss did not buy the Mockingjay pin. It was not a gift for Prim, later given back to Katniss BY Prim as a token.  The pin came from Madge.  This is an important detail.  The pin also was not secretly put on her jacket by Cinna.  The Gamemakers knew she had it.  All tokens must clear the review board.

-It was not Peeta’s idea for Katniss to hold his hand.  Cinna requested them to.  All a part of the strategy they were using to defy the Capitol.  Which brings me to my main grievance.

-What. The. Crap. They totally KILLED Katniss’s relationships with both Haymitch and Peeta.  In the books, Katniss throws a knife at the wall while on the train (she doesn’t stab it in the table) and Peeta and Haymitch get in a scuffle (Peeta winds up with a black eye).  This only begins Katniss’s strained relationship with Haymitch.  He is soooo condescending to her throughout the books (calling her sweetheart all the time, etc.) and it isn’t until later that the two of them seem to set aside their differences and actually work together.  In the movie, Haymitch and Katniss appear to be overall, very chummy.  Then there’s Peeta.  A huge part of the series for me was the conflict Katniss felt—allegiance to Gale and newfound feelings for Peeta (whether she acknowledged them initially or not).  But the movie made Katniss seem to have feelings for him the whole time.  It was as if they didn’t even HAVE to sell the ‘star-crossed lovers’ bit because Katniss already cared for him!  The scene on the balcony where Peeta tells Katniss he wants to die as himself is way more intense in the book than was conveyed in the movie.  Katniss appeared almost agreeable and emotional, yet in the book she mocks Peeta for being overly-noble.  Later, when Peeta has the gaping cut in his leg, Katniss kisses him twice.  In the movie, you might think it’s because she’s moved by her love for him.  Yet in the book we know it’s really because she gets parachutes from Haymitch when she acts affectionately towards Peeta.  I felt like the movie was just trying to turn the book into a typical love story (Hollywood-ized.  I should not be surprised!)  But there is so much more to it than that.  This false portrayal does not allow for Peeta to feel betrayed (which is how he actually feels at the end of the first book because he thinks Katniss was just acting in love for the cameras).  Furthermore, in that particular scene she was supposed to give him a sleeping draught she mixed up for him so that she could run to the Cornucopia to get him some medicine, though in the movie she just sneaks out during the night.

-Seneca Crane was hung.  He did not die by Nightlock.

-Details.  These kids were in the woods.  Fighting.  Yet they appeared very clean almost all of the time.  Other details.  Katniss’s red dress was supposed to be jeweled.  She was supposed to have her nails painted in the arena to remind herself she was Katniss: The girl who was on fire.  The colors of the clothing she wore weren’t right.  She picked out simple outfits in the book (black pants, a burgundy tunic, a green shirt one time).  I guess I just kind of figured those were simple details that could have easily been picked out and followed.  It would not have been hard.  There's more, but for everyone's sanity I'll quit.

THG books are phenomenal.  I encourage every one of you to read them.  The movie was, however, lacking in my opinion.  Seems like everyone knew it would be a box-office hit and so it was put together rather sloppily.


  1. I think I'm gonna have to split this up into two parts because there seems to be a character limit for comments. So, here goes:

    I will admit that I don't notice small details nearly as much as you seem to, at least not the first time I watch a movie or read a series--and even if I did, it doesn't bother me a whole lot when an adaptation changes or ignores minor details, such as what color the cat was or what the dresses look like or where the knife was thrown, or even who gave her the mockingjay pin (I did notice that that was different when I watched the movie, but since Madge was a fairly minor character in the book(s), I didn't really mind that they left her out of the movie). I don't see these details as being central to the plot or the character development or the overall themes of the work. Also, since film and writing are inherently different mediums and can never be EXACTLY the same, I always expect adaptations to change at least some things, and that doesn't bother me too much unless it affects the more important aspects like the plot, character development, themes, etc.

    But to address your major grievance about Katniss's relationships: I didn't get the impression that Katniss and Haymitch were terribly chummy, as you put it. She did fling a knife toward him in anger, after all. And Haymitch was indeed fairly rude to her at first, initially seeming like he didn't care about helping them survive, and telling Katniss that she wasn't doing too well in making people like her. The first time I noticed him actually being complimentary toward her was after she shot through the apple at the gamemakers' feast, because he was proud that she had been so bold (and, you've got to admit, that was a pretty awesome thing of her to do).

    I also didn't notice very much affection from Katiness to Peeta until later in the film, like when they were in the cave and kissed for the first time. I remember you telling me that this was one of your biggest complaints of the film, so I was on the lookout for it, but I really didn't see an overwhelming amount of signs that Katniss liked Peeta. She was reluctant to hold his hand at first, and when he announced to everyone that he liked her, she was so angry that she pushed him against a wall and began yelling at him. And Haymitch and the others at that time did mention that playing up the starcrossed lovers bit could help them survive, so it's not like that wasn't a factor in this movie. A bit later, they had a friendly conversation for a few minutes on the balcony, but that didn't make me think she was madly in love with him, just maybe needing a friend and being willing to begin considering other possibilities. After all, she's been taken away from her family and friends and is about to be sent to a battle to the death; she probably could have used at least a friend and someone talk to, going through some of the same things she was, if only for a few minutes...

  2. She didn't really show him much affection at all until she kissed him in the cave, and I think by that point she was starting to have feelings for him a little bit, or at least considering the possibility of it, since they had been through a lot together already and she had seen him trying to protect her from the others. But even then, she was only willing to give him a small kiss at first, and then reluctantly gave him a bigger one at Haymitch's request in order to put on more of a good show. At the end, after they had won the games, Haymitch told Katniss she needed to keep playing up the romance aspect so people wouldn't suspect that she and Peeta had been trying to rebel against the rules of the games. But when she was telling the cameras that she loved Peeta and could never live without him, you could tell she was forcing it very uncomfortably and didn't really feel that way. I already liked this actress from seeing her in X-Men, but I also think she played the character of Katniss very well and showed all the mixed and fake emotions without ever really showing a HUGE amount of enthusiasm for Peeta. The one quick kiss was the biggest sign of affection she ever showed him of her own accord, and maybe the willingness to go get his medicine as well, although that was probably more so to save his life than just because she felt attracted to him.

    Speaking of Peeta, I think I may have liked him more in the movie than I did in the book. In the books it took me a while to warm up to him, and I'm not sure if I ever fully did. He seemed kind of weak-willed and desperate and wimpy for a long time. But in the movie I could see more clearly that he was trying to protect Katniss and was willing even to sacrifice himself for her, which was very admirable and noble. I don't exactly know why I felt that in the movie and not in the books; I can't point to any one particular moment or aspect of the character development or acting as a reason. That was just the impression I got somehow.

    So I think they conveyed her conflict and uncertainty about Peeta fairly well without being able to divulge her inner thoughts—although it's true that, for the most part, they couldn't go into her mind and reveal it to the reader. A couple of exceptions that I thought were well-done was when they showed the flashback in her mind of Peeta giving her the bread, and her hallucination (which also was partially a flashback to her father's death) when she got stung by the tracker jacker. Those were good instances that gave us important information by showing us what she SAW in her mind, but of course, in a movie there's no way for them to show us exactly what her THOUGHTS were. I did think that limitation was a little inconvenient in a couple of instances, like when they had to bring in the TV announcers to explain to the audience what tracker jackers were and the fact that there were explosives under the mountain of supplies. Whereas Katniss's thoughts explained those things in the book, we of course couldn't see her thinking those things in the movie, so they had to bring in minor characters to act almost as narrators in order to explain them. I thought that was a little bit cheesy, when the narrators were speaking directly to the audience, but again, I considered it a minor detail since it was only a couple of short scenes, and it didn't ruin the whole film for me.

    I agree with you that the Gamemakers and the Capitol were done well, perhaps even better or more vividly than in the books. I thought it was a nice touch that we got to see the Capitolist propaganda about why the Games were supposedly a good and necessary thing—Seneca's interview where he said that the Games brought people together, the promotional video they showed at the Reaping, etc. Those were ironic but effective ways to show how the Games and the Capitol were actually repulsive and twisted and horrible, especially in contrast with the few scenes of President Snow showing how cruel and heartless he really was.

  3. (Okay, make that three posts...I guess we're both a bit obsessive with things we write. :-P)

    One other thing that doesn't seem to fit anywhere else in this post: I liked how they showed the riots and uprisings against the Capitol beginning to happen, like when we saw a glimpse of District 11 after Rue's death. Since the books were all from Katniss's perspective and she was in the Games at the time, we couldn't see those happening in the first book, and we didn't find out until the second book that that sort of thing had been going on. But I think showing it in this film added a little bit more and helped set up for the second one well, so that continuity will be good to have.

    So, all this probably won't change your mind, but I figured I'd at least explain why I liked the film and thought it was a pretty fair representation of the book. Like I said in my text to you, I didn't think it was a groundbreaking, earth-shattering masterpiece of cinema, but just a decently enjoyable and entertaining film. Then again, I also didn't think the book was a groundbreaking, earth-shattering masterpiece of literature, but just a decently enjoyable and entertaining book. Each to his or her own, I guess.

  4. hahaha Sam, I love that you typed me a 3-part response (again, giving me more hits than my blog has ever gotten: a. because it's not interesting b. because I don't advertise and c. because I never update!)

    I agree. Details can be picky. I guess to me they are important somewhat because hard is it to get an orange backpack? I will admit, however, that I am being more and more convinced by people that movies do not have to be like books (although I look for that and probably always will in some sense). You didn't change my mind about Katniss's relationships with Haymitch or Peeta, but that's ok.

    Also, I think you raise a great point about continuity. Showing the uprisings in the movie, although they ARE hinted at in the first book, will set the stage up nicely for Catching Fire.

    Thanks for always talking to me about movies, Sam! :) I enjoy it!

  5. Oh. One more thing. They still looked too clean for fighting (TO THE DEATH!) in the woods. That is all. haha

  6. Okay, that's a good point too. I didn't think of that at the time. They could have made that part a little bit more believable.

    One more detail I DID think of that I forgot to mention at first: How were the gamemakers able to make anything they wanted just magically appear in the games? Was it like that in the books? I guess I was under the impression that they would have to create whatever they wanted naturally, like planting a tree or genetically engineering an animal, and then transport it to the arena somehow, instead of just pulling it up on a computer screen and then making it magically, automatically appear in the arena. Maybe there was some futuristic technology that could make things just suddenly appear, but I don't think it was ever explained in the books or movies, and so it did make things a little less believable.

  7. I know what you mean. Like you, I thought the Gamemakers had to plant the tree, genetically engineer the animal, etc. It did seem a bit off kilter in the movie to design something on the computer and send it raging into the arena. Although the book does make it seem like there is some connection because the Gamemakers had things set on timers sometimes, didn't they?