So, like the rest of the world, my sister and I went to see The Hunger Games opening weekend. I’d read the books way before there were any whispers of a movie and thoroughly enjoyed them. I suppose you could call me a fan (not a very good one, mind you. I’ve only read the series once and I don’t have the Mockingjay insignia tattooed on my skin). I genuinely care about the characters and was worried about what the silver screen would do to my image of Panem and the people in it. And considering Hollywood’s track record, I had my doubts.But I found I enjoyed the movie. It captured the mood of the book and the acting and storytelling were strong and concise. Yes, it had its shortcomings; it didn’t have the same emotional depth as the book and the character relationships got short changed. But these things are to be expected in book-to-movie adaptions.
Now, if you’ve been online anytime since the movie opened, you probably came across a review and/or rant about the details that pleased and irked critics the most. Being a fan, I read a few of these articles. But only a few, I’m a modest fan after all. I couldn’t help noticing though, that in the swirl of praises and complaints, no one touched on the one issue that bothered me.
Towards the end of the movie, on the night after Katniss wins the Hunger Games, she looks (and seems) happy and healthy and unaffected by the hell she just endured. It was only a thirty second scene, but it was completely jarring. And completely unbelievable.
This was actually the one point my sister and I agreed on as we debated the movie on the ride home (she didn’t care for it and she loves
the books). In the novel, Katniss was beat up, emaciated, and on the verge of collapse, both physically and mentally. As readers, we saw the psychological war she was battling in the arena. We were standing with her, reading her thoughts, as she fought on. But it was only when the Games were over, in the descriptions of how the makeup artists are padding her dress and covering up the scars, that we realized the heavy physical toll this ordeal extracted on her.I read in some article that at its core, the Hunger Games is all about food; putting enough food on the table, hunting, bartering, worrying about where the next meal will come from and so on. But I don’t think that’s quite right. At its core, the Hunger Games is about desperation and survival. Every single action or choice Katniss makes throughout the story is driven by one of these two things. Consequently, she doesn’t have much bandwidth left to worry about her physical state. And the reader loses sight of how much collective damage Katniss is taking as she trying to survive the horror du jour. So at the end, when you realize how closely Katniss’s appearance mirrors her state of mind, it’s a very powerful image.
On screen though, the only damage Katniss seems to have taken from the Hunger Games was a few out-of-place hairs and some bad memories.
I’m not saying that Jennifer Lawrence should have lost 50% of her body weight (I like her and wouldn’t wish that on anyone) but makeup artists are masters of illusion and there’s always CGI. Yet, there was nothing. Consequently, it was the only point in the movie that I thought lost the spirit of the books.
So I suppose the moral of this story is that if you’re ever stuck in a televised gladiator-style death match with a book and a movie, and you can only save one, go for the book. It’ll have a more meaningful story.