News Editor Joe Brown and staff writer Amber Judge take a look at the popular film and book The Hunger Games in this Springfield Student Film-Novel comparison.
Don’t Forget About the Novel
“May the odds be ever in your favor.”
That is what Effie Trinket announces every year at the reaping of the tributes for the “Hunger Games,” an event that takes place in each of the 12 districts for the last 73 years when 24 tributes are chosen and only one survives in The Hunger Games.
The Hunger Games, written by Suzanne Collins, is young adult fiction, which is the very reason why I didn’t pick it up and start reading it in 2008 when it was released. I tend to read non-fiction, Stephen King and classic novels with the occasional young adult fiction like Harry Potter. People have been nagging at me all year to pick it up and start reading it. It took seven friends, my roommate and my sister to convince me that it would be a good book. Turns out, I found myself unable to put it down. Its combination of nerve-racking tension, thrilling action and engaging love kept me up late into the night.
The story is set in a future where the government oppresses its people. When the book opens, North America as we know it has been destroyed and is now divided into 12 districts, ruled by an oppressive government located at the Capitol. Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl from District 12, saves her younger sister Prim’s life by taking her place as one of 24 “tributes” selected every year to participate in the Hunger Games at the Capitol when Prim’s name is randomly selected.
The Games put children from ages 12 to 18 against each other in a fight to the death in a giant, treacherous arena. Everything is televised and highly publicized all over the country. The Games are around because 74 years ago (this book shows the 74th Hunger Games events) the 13 districts rebelled against the Capitol. After the Capitol viciously beat them and nuclear-bombed District 13, they imposed the Hunger Games to remind the survivors of their absolute power. Now Katniss must not only survive the Games, but deal with a growing romance between her and another tribute from District 12 (Peeta Mellark), all the while deciding if she is willing to kill strangers her own age as a pawn of an oppressive government.
Katniss constantly battles thirst, fire, hunger, injuries and other teenagers for survival. She makes and loses friends, and I became so attached to her and Peeta that I was dying to find out how the book ended. While the plot is mainly what drives this book, the creativity of this future world and the concept of the Games are also impressive.
In addition, the characters are all very strong and exhibit character development throughout the book. Katniss, the protagonist, grew the most throughout the book. Katniss’s family is poor, and before she served as a tribute, Katniss spent her days sneaking past the electric fence that surrounds the forbidden forest, hunting for food to support her family. Katniss serves as the ‘mom’ of the family, taking care of her mother and younger sister Prim after her dad’s death in a mining accident. When Prim’s name is called at the reaping, Katniss steps forward and takes her place. Katniss never loses this quality of putting her life on the line for others. She does this again when she risks her life for Peeta in the Games.
Peeta, the male tribute from District 12, is madly in love with Katniss and has been for a very long time, which Katniss does not discover until Peeta announces it in front of everyone who is watching the Games. The Games put them in a situation where only one will make it out alive. Throughout the book, rules change, new circumstances and enemies arise and chaos ensues. Katniss adapts and grows from a simple hunter into a skilled, patient and intelligent competitor.
Collins often wrote in sentence fragments to describe how Katniss felt, which might have been an attempt to reflect on Katniss’s thought process, but I found it disorienting to read a lot of really short sentences all together. It would have been better to vary the sentence length on occasion, but the story was still coherent.
Overall, The Hunger Games was an excellent, enthralling read that I highly recommend.
Amber Judge may be reached at email@example.com
Film Version Brings Novel Alive
Whenever venturing to see a movie adapted from a renowned book that is a thoroughly enjoyable read, I always enter the theater with an extra sense of hesitation. My mind fears the worst because it is difficult to see a story that I have come to cherish ruined on the big screen in a matter of hours as I sit through every painstaking minute. There are far too many times that this book-to-movie transfer has ended poorly, and because of the way The Hunger Games was written, there was a very real possibility that the movie could suffer a similar fate.
Two hours and 42 mesmerizing minutes after setting foot in the theater, I was reassured that there is still hope for showing written stories on the theater screen.
The beauty of Suzanne Collins’s book is that it is written in first-person perspective from the mind of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence). The challenge of portraying the story in film format, therefore, dealt with working around the inability to tell the story from Katniss’ perspective. To counter this, the director, Gary Ross, used dialogue between President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and the head game maker, Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley), as well as action within the “control room” of the staff working the games. This added a new element to the story that the book could not touch upon because of Katniss’s limited perspective.
The thing that resonated with me was the pure genius of the casting of actors and actresses. Every actor/actress nailed the role they were in by breathing life into the characters, making them feel vibrant and alive. My two favorites were the casting of Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) and Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci). When I saw Harrelson for the first time as Haymitch, it was exactly how I had pictured the character behaving in my head. Harrelson nailed the role and brought to life an enigma of a character.
Tucci handled the role of Caesar to perfection, easing a tension-filled plot with some much-needed comedic moments. The movie also portrayed Caesar doing play-by-play of the games, which made it very relatable to modern-day sporting events.
While the book is set in the future, it is portrayed as not being too far removed from our time, and the technology of the movie showed. The movie is not meant to showcase a technoalogically different world, but instead, a culturally different one, and it achieved that goal by visually showing the differences between the lavish life in the Capitol and the desolate life in District 12.
Although various parts of the book are dropped for the sake of time, the only scene that was cut down a little too much was the cave scene where Katniss really begins to show her conflict between pretending to like Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) simply to survive and actually falling in love with him. By cutting out the majority of their time in the cave, Ross eliminated some of that crucial character-building interaction. The ending of the movie also felt very rushed, which, again, was a factor of time.
Many times I despise the parts that movies take the liberty of adding in that do not exist in the book, but in The Hunger Games, these parts were subtle and not overused. The additional scenes did not detract from the movie, but in fact, enhanced the overall story, which needed some additions to make sense in film form.
Despite the fact that a solid portion of the movie takes place in the battle arena, this is not a movie based on blood and gore, just as Collins would have wanted. The focus is not meant to be on the visual bloodshed, but instead, on much deeper themes such as an enslaved culture, the differences between the rich and poor, the inhumane concept of pitting teenagers against each other in a fight to the death and Katniss’ inability to truly relate to those around her.
A lot of careful thought was put into the making of this film, and the product shows. I would encourage anyone who has read the book and has reservations about seeing the movie to give it a chance, because I would bet that you will be more than happy with what you see.
For those who have yet to read the book but are interested in the movie, I would highly recommend it. Although I’m no professional, I would rate it 4.75 out of 5 stars.