I have a feeling I might not be sitting in the Popular Opinion Cool Kids Section after this one. Oh well.
The Hunger Games in general didn’t catch my attention like it did the rest of the world. I didn’t clamor to get the books, and I wasn’t rabid at the idea of a movie. There are several reasons for this. I don’t actively seek out YA books, though I know they can be well written and interesting. I have a lot of other books sitting on a table and waiting to be read, competing with the reorganization and fixing of my house, so I’m not actively seeking out any books that come in a series. Those books waiting to be read are also things that I’ve been looking forward to reading, and I want to get to them. I haven’t been reading like I normally do, and the thought of adding more books to that pile at the moment is a little daunting.
My mother picked up the first book in the series and read it really quickly. She told me that she really enjoyed it. Since it’s a YA and I know that she’s not trying to trick me into reading smut, I decided to give it a chance. I thought it might be nice to have a quick, fun read.
Turns out, I did enjoy reading it. The story is deep, the characters are well thought out and I was interested in knowing more about them. And I read it in under 10 hours total.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to fashion a Katniss Everdeen costume and write fanfic now. I’ve written fanfic exactly twice in my life. Once was an Anita Blake fic, I decided that with how absurd the story was getting and how badly the writing was becoming, a werecow fit right into it all. The other was a Superman/Lex Luthor fic for a friend that complained there was nothing good out there to satisfy her wants. There’s one brewing in my head that has to do with Darth Vader, but we’ll forget I even bought that up.
But I did decide that I wanted to see the movie, and so did my mom. I have heard nothing but rave reviews for it, along with statements that it was perfectly made and they left nothing out.
This is where I’m going to get hit with the shit stick, I think.
This movie has had issues and controversy surrounding it because of morons with low to nonexistent reading comprehension outing themselves as racists. I’m not going to get into this. Personally, I think the casting was pretty well done. My issue is not casting.
It’s the entirety of the movie.
My mother and I left the movie feeling… unsure. But as we talked about it, we realized… it’s not good. We were really unhappy. And I was really confused. How could everybody say that this movie was perfectly made? That it was exactly what the book was, and they couldn’t have asked for anything more? How were legions of people delighted by what they had seen? I felt hugely, hugely, let down.
I’m going to spell out why. But I’m going to mention here that I’m not going to hold back on what I say, so there’s bound to be spoilers. I don’t really know more than one or two people that haven’t somehow become absorbed into this, so I’m not really worried. Since I don’t want to get yelled at for it, however, and don’t want spoiler issues to overshadow the rest of what I’m saying, here it is:
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD.
There. You were warned.
Now on to my issues.
1. Where the pin came from. I felt like this was a big deal because that pin came from somebody unexpected. It came from somebody that Katniss didn’t think gave two thoughts about her. It was a showing that she was supported in her future venture, not just for taking her sister’s place and being brave about it in the face of impending shit. Taking this moment away from the story… I just can’t fathom how they thought that it would be okay.
2. Haymitch and his drinking. They played this down. I’m unsure of why. Because kids would be seeing it? Didn’t kids read it? I also felt like him falling off the stage was something of small import. It meant that the whole of the country was watching District 12 already, but making fun of them. Taking this out means that they’re not turning the country’s view of their district around in any way. They don’t start out the underdog.
3. Peeta’s father was removed as well. We know in the book that his mother is a tyrant. This is generally ignored, but I think because I had just read the book and it was fresh in my mind that I translated it onto the screen. Removing his father was harshly evident. There was no balance. Taking out the moment that his father visits Katniss and gifts her with treats removes her decision that she can’t accept kindness from anyone, because of what she has to do. It removes the passionate moment where she throws out the bag, lessening the turmoil of her later decision to team up with Peeta and what it really means.
4. All the personal relationships were really underdeveloped. I felt no connection between Katniss and anybody else. Not her mother, not her sister, not Gale. I didn’t feel for her in the moment that she stepped up to take her sister’s place, because by that time, I really felt like she was an expendable character. Nobody seemed to really give a shit about her, so neither did I. This was in stark contrast to the book, where I could almost feel my own heart breaking as her sister’s name is called. As Gale has to come up and physically remove the sister from the scene because of all the emotion. While this happens in the movie as well, it’s not even a fraction as dramatic as it should have been. It was kind of like a walk in the park.
5. The pressure of the Games is removed. Not one part of it feels harrowing or dangerous. It feels like paintball with friends on a nice Saturday afternoon in comparison to how the book describes it. This can be backed up by the fact that there have been a great number of people in the real world wishing that they could be a part of the Hunger Games. WHY WOULD ANYBODY WANT THAT?
6. It is very evident in the book how different life is in the Capitol, spoken of many times in detail. The weird hair, the outrageous plastic surgery. This being replaced with outlandish makeup and wigs tears apart everything that was trying to be illustrated. Anybody can put on a wig and makeup. These people made alterations to their very structures because they didn’t really have anything better to do with their lives. They dyed their goddamned skin different colors. These are instruments to show the absolute decadence of the Capitol. The lavish lives that they lead. The painful blandness of their lives that drives them to staunch their boredom in un-thought-of ways.
7. Rue. Oh my god, Rue. She wasn’t there for long, but she was a huge impact on Katniss and the general point of the story. But in the movie she’s mainly left out. We don’t see her helping Katniss. We don’t see the exchange of knowledge between them, or that Katniss takes care of this little girl. We don’t get their connection at all. For christ’s sake, she doesn’t even chew the leaves, just pastes them over Katniss’ burns whole. There’s nothing there to make us feel anything for her, or for Katniss when she dies. It’s just an empty, decorated platter. Something pretty to look at, with no substance.
Even the fact that Katniss leaves the spear in Rue so that nobody else will be able to have it is lost.
8. Small, but integral, I think, is the crown. One of the simplest things that happened in the whole story, yet they managed to neglect it entirely. Instead of one crown for one person, the crown splits into two, a part for Katness, a part for Peeta, to show that they share the win. Yet in the movie? One. One for Katniss. While she is the narrator of our tale, she is NOT the only hero. In fact, she’s not really much of a hero in the standard sense at all. She is selfish. Peeta is the hero. This is evident even in the book. So where is Peeta’s crown?
9. Why did they lessen Katniss’ wounds? How did that make anything better? To keep the actress pretty? She went through hell in the book, yet she comes out of the Games looking pretty clean and plump. As if the entire thing happened over a matter of hours instead of days. By the way she looks, she doesn’t need any of the help she gets from others. The teaming up with Rue is diminished here as well.
10. We miss out entirely on her reaction to Peeta’s declaration of love. They don’t have her sitting in the audience to hear it along with the rest of the world. We see her anger. And even that isn’t fully realized. She breaks his hands in the book. Breaks his HANDS.
11. Another diminished aspect that I felt was hugely important? The gifts. The sponsors as a whole, really. Everything that they were doing, from their costumes to how they were acting was to get sponsors, to get gifts, so that they could survive. Without this, what point is the beautiful flaming set of creations by Cinna? Without this, why should she bother even putting on an act with Peeta? We see very little of these gifts, or their meaning. Ripping away beautiful writing and some pretty good moments that could have been captured.
12. Muttations. Hi. This could have been awesome. But it was … sad. Pathetically thought out in the movie, or not thought out, as the case may be. There’s a point when they’re surrounded by these dogs, ravenous and angry, out for blood dog-human creations. Katniss sees in these creatures the features of her fellow tributes, showing just how disgusting these games really are. It doesn’t matter if they’re truly made with the bodies of the fallen, the point is that the creators of this “game” will stoop to any level. They’re using the deceased as game pieces after they’ve already been destroyed in horrible ways. Their death is no peace to them. They are made to terrify and confuse the living. Sure, they’re still plenty discouraging when they appear, but not nearly as moving.
To top it off, we don’t really get to see what the Capitol has done in the past to win against the rebels. The things that they created to best their enemies.
13. The Avox. The whole story of the redheaded girl and how Katniss knew her. The fact that their tongues are removed and they’re made to serve others. Where was it? Why do they keep insisting on refusing to make the Capitol as evil as they are?
14. They missed a huge story point in removing Katniss’ personal issues about Peeta and Gale. What she has to do VS what she wants, and what she’s not sure she wants VS what she might actually be feeling. Worrying about what Gale will think when she does what she has to do to survive.
15. Why remove her entire ordeal with trying to find water? Because they left out everything else that has to with the gifts? Water is important, yet they neglected to make me feel like she’d spent any time without it.
16. I really missed Katniss’ stylists. They are vapid, they are flighty, but they are also interesting. They show the stark contrast between Katniss’ world and the world of the Capitol, and yet they still obviously begin to care about her. We get to see them grow from people who only care about themselves into individuals who are rather like dotty aunts.
17. Cinna. So much more should have been explored with Cinna. His brief moments on screen didn’t even begin to touch the deep connection that he has with her. We don’t know why, in the books, Cinna doesn’t exactly subscribe to the things that the people around him do, but we can see that he doesn’t. He is subdued. He knows what needs to be done, but he isn’t a follower. He helps Katniss in more ways than just her clothing. But we miss it. All of it.
18. Her father? We learn the bare essentials of Katniss and her father, their relationship, what he did for her, what he meant to her, how he left their lives, the impact on her mother. Sure, we see some of this in really brief flashes. But we don’t really get to know it. If it weren’t for him, she wouldn’t be who she became. Yet it doesn’t seem to be important at all in the movie.
19. The pin. Again. We see it. We know that she takes it into the Games. We don’t know that she’s not really supposed to. We don’t get to see the impact of it anywhere. It’s just a pin. A pin given to her by the wrong person for the wrong reasons.
There are probably more reasons that I’m not coming up with right at this moment, but I think the gist of how I feel has come across in these points. All 19 of them.
Having read the second book now, all of these points are just further cemented for me. I read things that bring these points back into life, into the story. They aren’t things that are just in the first book. They grow and become other things. The changes made in the movie in some cases, completely erases some relationships and moments that happen in the second book. It strips them out entirely. There are some spots, from movie to second book, where I can see the bridges over the gaps they made, using logic, but it doesn’t mean that it will be good or satisfactory if another movie is made. (If. I say if, like it’s not going to happen)
I wish now that I hadn’t even gone to see the movie. It’s tainted my experience. It ripped me out of the moment. I did still enjoy the second book, and I’m looking forward to reading the third and finding out what happens. But the entire time I was reading the second, I was finding flaws in the movie and having to stop to think about everything they took away from us with their omissions and changes. This is not what reading should be. This is not what a movie experience should be.
I’m disappointed. And confused. How is this movie so well liked?