The Hunger Games: Book to Movie Translation

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I was watching a Neil deGrasse Tyson interview the other day and he was asked, as an astrophysicist, if anything bothers him about fictional science in sci-fi movies. Part of his answer was off topic, it was that he DESPISES people who go to a movie and then continually talk about the book being better. Honestly, the only way the book won’t be better is if the orignial source material was crappy. If that was the case, they wouldn’t make the movie. That being said, I i was very pleased with most of the movie translation of the Hunger Games.

From the very start the filmmakers make sure they created a good tone for the movie.  They took a  minimalist approach when it came to the score, in fact, I didn’t really notice anything playing in the background until they were on the train. This really helped build the tension that was so apparent in the book. The reaping scene was awesome, I thought Primrose tucking the back of shirt into her skirt after being called was a great touch that wasn’t in the book.

Another added scene that really worked for me was the Rue’s District uprising. While the upheavel of the 12(13) Districts is a major theme of the series, it is largely untouched in the first book and the added scene of Rue’s District staging an uprising was excellent. The other material absent from the book were all the scenes between Wes Bentley’s Seneca Crane and Donald Sutherland’s President Snow. They too worked well and gave the characters added depth that was absent from both of their characters in the first book. Like the uprising scene, fleshing out President Snow gives the series more momentum moving forward.

People love to compare this movie to Battle Royale due to the obvious similarities. Something that really works in Battle Royale, but not quite in the Hunger Games, is the whole kids killing kids to survive. The biggest discrepancy can be seen in the start of the death match. In BR, pretty much every kid is questioning their own morality. A handful of kids go so far as to commit suicide. The bloodbaths that happen are a result of paranoia setting in. When it gets down to it, every kid has changed, no one made it out unscathed. In the Hunger Games, and this is largely the same as in the book, we have scenes where Peeta says, “I just want to be me”. He didn’t want the Games to change him. HE IS THE ONLY PERSON WHO SAYS THIS. All in all I just wanted to say that the Battle Royale death match seemed more feasible, especially the psychological effects and the brutality.

Whenever you are adapting popular source material to a major motion picture there will always be a ton of hoopla when it comes to the casting, let’s take a closer look at the casting character by character:

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen – An excellent choice on paper, a young actress who has come into her own with terrific performances in smaller, independent films. Her biggest movie until this one was X-Men: First Class where I thought she was distractingly bad. That wasn’t the case here, she did great. Her look was a little off for me, not quite catching the desperate poverty that is rampant in their district. She did have the quiet confidence and plain gorgeousness down. A defining moment in her life is when she is on the verge of collapse and exhaustion and Peeta throws her some bread. This was a misfire in the movie. She looked like a high school student who just got back a test she failed, not that she was on the verge of death. I also wasn’t buying her tripping on Tracker Jacket scene.

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark – I thought this was spot on, I always imagined someone like Josh in this role. His character in the movie was the exact same as in the book. My one beef in general is that we are supposed to believe that because this guy dyes cakes he is also supposed to be a camouflage expert. Last time I checked that’s not how that works.

Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne – Again, looks wise pretty spot on. He is supposed to be a good looking alpha male type and Liam fit the bill. I liked that they tanned him up a little bit, not sure if that was intentional or not. They should have done the same with Jennifer though, in later books we are supposed to buy that Gale and Katniss are actually cousins. That shit aint flying with Lawrence’s pastiness and Hemsworth’s tanness. He doesn’t appear to be a very good actor, luckily, he doesn’t need to be.

Williow Shields and Paula Malcomson as Primrose and Mrs. Everdeen – Interestingly we never got Katniss’ Mom’s name in the books either. I thought the Primrose was casting spot on. All the kids were cast too old, but Shields did a great job of appearing frail, and that is all that she needed to do. Katniss is supposed to be trying to win the games only because of her love for her sister. Paula Malcomson is amazing, there are a number of things you could recognize her from. I’ve always recognized her as one of the Earp’s wives in Tombstone, but more recently she had a great turn in one of my favorite shows Sons of Anarchy, and also plays everyones favorite whore Trixie in Deadwood. In the Hunger Games series she won’t ever have much to work with and will always be under utilized.

Stanley Tucci as Caeser Flickerman, Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket – Nailed these two, both were fantastic.

Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy, Lenny Kravitz as Cinna – Both were well cast. Kravitz had the look down cold, unfortunately he didn’t come off very convincing. Woody was awesome but I didn’t really like they way the movie portrayed his character. First, the book introduces him at the reaping, drunk/hungover stumbling around so much he falls off the stage. That is THE perfect introduction to the where the character is at that time. I also didn’t feel the shots of him during the games were necessary. I also feel like the cut out some of his better dialogue with Katniss and Peeta but I might be off on that.

Sutherland and Bentley were great as I said above. They especially nailed Bentley’s character during the arrow through the apple scene when he loudly proclaims “Who ordered this pig?!” The toolery and douchebaggery of that statement is spot on to the character.

All in all, not bad. It will be interesting to see who they decide to direct the 2nd one with Gary Ross not signing back on. A lot was made of Ross’s relationship with Lawrence and also his working with Suzanne Collins (writer of the series) to write the screen play. I think a Director who might not be so concerned with just filming scenes from the book could breathe some air into the series (for example, Harry Potter 1 and 2 compared to all the later, better movies).

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