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devil duck

Hunger Games (minimal spoilers)

So shalmestere and I saw the movie this afternoon, after having read the book a week or two ago.

They did a good job, all things considered. Both District Twelve and the Capitol looked pretty much the way I imagined them: parts of District Twelve were location-shot in North Carolina, with ramshackle Depression-era houses and appropriately Appalachian topography and vegetation, while the Capitol was appropriately colorful, high-tech, fantastic, and shallow. The Arena was also shot in North Carolina (convenient for Katniss that things are basically familiar).

Things are always left out in converting a book to a movie, and most of them I didn't mind.

  • They wrote Madge and the Mayor out of the movie, but what they did instead made sense.

  • Katniss's illness in the cave would have added to her relationship with Peeta, but it would have cost a fair amount of screen time to do properly.

  • Likewise Katniss's brush with dehydration: it felt important at the time I read it in the book, but the movie didn't suffer too much from its absence.

  • Peeta's serious injury near the end, tourniquet treatment, and subsequent reconstructive surgery. This was obviously a life-changing event for him, but the movie makes sense without it.

  • Katniss's interactions with Peacekeepers before the Reaping. This would have made some of them human, which will affect the second movie, and it shows her character. On the other hand, it would have taken a fair amount of screen time; perhaps it'll be done at the beginning of the second movie.

  • Katniss's deafness, and subsequent reconstructive surgery. The deafness is hinted at by a "ringing in the ears" tone for the rest of that scene, but nobody ever mentions it. This affects how certain things can be written in the second movie.

Here's what I felt were serious omissions:

  • Malnutrition. Katniss, Gale, and Peeta have seldom in their lives filled their stomachs. In the book, when Katniss and Peeta encounter the abundant food on the train and in the Capitol, they start stuffing their faces desperately and uncontrollably; in the movie, you see them surrounded by fancy food but I don't recall seeing them eat anything. And the actors look way too well-fed to have grown up in those conditions (although I found Katniss's mother and sister believable).

  • The "drugging Peeta" scene. The movie made sense without it, but it would have taken thirty seconds of screen time, easy, and it adds an interesting twist to the Katniss-Peeta relationship.

  • The "bread from District Eleven" scene. This would have taken a bit more screen time: a scene in which Peeta points out regional cuisines on the plate, and a scene in which the bread arrives, Katniss recognizes it and conspicuously thanks "the people of District Eleven". Still, two minutes of screen time would do it, and I thought it was a powerful and important illustration of both her decency and the budding sense of inter-district unity. I really missed it.

What was added? Well, there's an execution that the book only mentions, and the movie shows (very appropriately and believably) how it is carried out. Some of the back-story is explained (believably) by TV commentators rather than by Katniss-as-narrator. Some things are explained and motivated by added dialogue between Seneca and President Snow; again, I found this reasonably plausible. No complaints on this score.


I agree with all of your points about the omissions, and I especially missed the "bread from District Eleven". Ah well. At least we got Thresh giving Katniss a pass; although, I was expecting Thresh to be MUCH bigger.
Yeah. Re malnutrition, not only isn't it depicted physically, it's a plot line they entirely removed. I was bothered by the change in the dress used in the final interview; I just looked it up, and while I had remembered correctly it was yellow and had a different silhouette, I'd forgotten why that mattered to the plot: Cinna had been required to pad it, because the Gamemakers don't want her to appear emaciated as she came out of the Arena. "I know," says Cinna before I can object. "But the Gamemakers wanted to alter you surgically. Haymitch had a huge fight with them over it. This was the compromise." But Cinna very much wants to show her as slender, and the dress and outfit he's giving her sabotage the compromise in a plausibly deniable way. It's the first hint she's given of just how much deadly danger she's in.

Something else subtle that was missing, that I was surprised by, because I'd heard about the use of talking heads to substitute for Katniss' interior monologue, was all the strategic and tactical deductive work, e.g. "I'll head downhill to find water"[*] and "The guy they left guarding the pile, he's not one of their clique. I wonder what he's doing with them. What district is he from, anyways?" and "This Rue chick, why did they score her that high?" That's all the stuff that in reading the book, made the Games seem like a fantastical, lethal game of Survivor. I expected to get a lot more color commentary, since it seemed both the perfect form for it, and key to the excitement and entertainment of the book.

[* Is it just me or in the movie did Haymitch tell her, "Head for high ground and find water"? I had a moment of lag, and then thought, "MAKE UP YOUR MIND".]

Re bread from District Eleven: that has another purpose, too, in the book. It's the first time in the history of the games that one district sent a sponsor gift to another. It's the first indication that we (or she) get that she's not merely winning, she's breaking the Games themselves, and that the 74th Hunger Games are going off the rails.
Is it just me or in the movie did Haymitch tell her, "Head for high ground and find water"? I had a moment of lag, and then thought, "MAKE UP YOUR MIND"

Yes, I had exactly the same reaction: are the laws of physics different here? In the book he says "put as much distance as you can between yourself and the others, and find a source of water," which makes sense.

It's the first time in the history of the games that one district sent a sponsor gift to another.... she's not merely winning, she's breaking the Games themselves...

Good point; I had forgotten that. Definitely an omission; maybe it'll be in the "Director's Cut" on the DVD release.

Edited at 2012-04-04 10:51 am (UTC)