The Major Issue with the Hunger Games Movie

Or, “How I Procrastinate on Studying for My Exit Exams”

I try to remain open-minded when a book or story I like makes it to Hollywood. I’m much less likely than my friends to rip on the movie for not being wholly accurate or for a few instances of silly acting.

That being said, I actually enjoyed the Hunger Games when I saw it last weekend. Jennifer Lawrence and Elizabeth Banks were spot on, and I love how they showed a little bit of the game control room. I thought that making Seneca Crane a bigger player was great for his character. And thank god, they did Rue right! Some of my friends were much harder on it for the changes that were made — changing the significance of the Mockingjay pin, cutting out small events that really affect character development — but while I can agree that I wasn’t happy with those things, either, they weren’t complete deal breakers for me.

BUT. There was a deal breaker.

I’ve been a writer for more than a decade now. (I’ve known I wanted to publish since eighth grade.) More importantly, I’ve been a reader since before I can remember. So while I may not be able to do basic math problems or explain the political causes of high gas prices during an election year, I do know something about how to tell a story.

A GOOD story.

Now, the Hunger Games movie does achieve some good story-telling. Most of the scenes in the arena were done really well — I’ll give it a check mark for “good action story.”

Good suspense story.

Good coming-of-age story.

Hell, good socio-political commentary.

NOT a good love story. And I mean love on any level. In the book, we know that Katniss loves her sister, but can’t bring herself to forgive her mom or to love anyone else. Now, let’s forget, for the moment, about the whole bread scene — which lacked all the context that made it important!!! — and focus on the cave scene. It’s clear that Katniss likes Peeta, but until this scene she refuses to let herself get close to him. And even then, she won’t admit her feelings to herself. In the book, we can clearly see the difference between

1) Katniss making the audience believe she’s in love with Peeta,

2) Katniss actually beginning to fall in love with Peeta, and

3) Katniss making herself believe she is not in love with Peeta.

This triad makes the cave scene one of the most important moments of character development in the whole novel. And yet somehow in the movie the whole scene just looks like a big jumble of “OMG Peeta suddenly I LURV you!” with 1 and 2 smashed together and none of the subtlety of 3.

In fact it’s SO bad that we don’t even get the gut punch at the end of the movie when Peeta realizes she’s just been ACTING all this time, and Katniss realizes HE’S not been. In fact, as far as the audience can tell, they’re a couple… Maybe? There may be a sense that something is off, or I could just be perceiving tension that isn’t there because I know it should be. In any case, the development of Katniss as a human being and an adult with romantic emotions just doesn’t seem happen, and that whole internal struggle gets left out. And guess what that means for Peeta’s character? He doesn’t get one. He effectively becomes an Object.

Again, this may just be me, but it looks like Twishite tropes are worming their way into the Hollywood subconscious.

At this point, I can’t think of a way this bad story-telling can be fixed in the second movie. As a friend of mine said, it’s not even a time issue; thirty seconds here and there can do a LOT for character development, and the movie wouldn’t be that much longer. And if it is? Take one more action that can make this a better love story: cut out the random shots of Gale. Because, frankly, those should have been shots of Prim — you know, the only person Katniss is sure she loves? The one she sacrificed herself for in her first defining scene as a character?

I’m not saying that fixing these bits would have made the movie perfect, but it definitely would have been far better. As it was, I left the theater thinking that a good job had been done, but also that there was just something off. And I’m willing to bet that even viewers who haven’t read the book felt that, too. That’s exactly what happens with bad storytelling: everything seems alright on a technical level but there’s just something you can’t put your finger on.

What do you think, lovely readers? Have you seen the movie/read the book/both? I’d love to hear your opinions!


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. beckyday6
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 01:44:34

    I completely agree with you! I really couldn’t have said it better myself. Excellent post!


  2. Jeyna Grace
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 03:04:55

    Im kinda happy THG is NOT a typical love story.. had enough of those.


  3. Tea Leaves and Dog Ears
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 03:11:53

    I had a huge problem with the fact that the movie made it seem like Peeta and Katniss had fallen in love in the cave (from Katniss’s point of view, at least). I was hoping for a shot of Gale’s reaction because, while I don’t love the love triangle element, it did seem like a necessary moment for the movie to explore. So I’m glad I got that, but I’ve read a few reviews from people who haven’t read the books who interpreted that scene to mean that she was cheating on her boyfriend.

    It would be easy to say that it’s hard to express someone’s inner monologue onscreen without, you know, an inner monologue — but there are parts in the book where Peeta jokingly says that they should kiss for the cameras to keep the ruse going.

    Katniss not getting that Peeta’s grand plan had a massive grain of truth was one of the things I liked in the book, and so I was disappointed to see them mishandle that in the movie.


  4. onebreathmeditation
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 03:20:04

    Unfortunately, I have to agree. They played the love angle the Hollywoor way


  5. Barb the French Bean
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 00:09:35

    My main concern is what will happen in the second film because of these alterations. That brief moment in which District 11 rebelled may have given some foreshadowing to what is to come, but when Peeta and Katniss are expected to do their victor’s tour, how will they come off as being a believable couple when we, the viewers, didn’t even see that in the first film? o_O


  6. Lydia R
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 14:16:18

    I will agree as well. Since you know I have both seen the movie and read the books, the cave scene just oozed with awkward for me. Not because Katniss felt it but the way the scene was set up in the movie. It was like a romantic scene from the Twilight Saga where it all just feels so wrong and you want to bang the girl’s head telling her to get out from an unhealthy relationship.

    I also hate all the attention Gale gets that also amplifies the awkward Twilightness. Constantly throughout the book while Katniss is in the arena she constantly thinks what Prim must be thinking and reacting to, which in turn influences a lot of her decisions. The movie decided to take an actual look while all of this is going on yet doesn’t cut to the one person that really has an emotional reaction to this ordeal.

    But overall, as far as book to movie adaptions go, this one is pretty accurate and mostly true to the book and even exploiting the advantages a movie has over a book. (The cutting to different characters reactions).


  7. Naal
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 19:20:24

    I’d go further and say that those pointless screen shots back at Gale ate up time that could have be given over to character development of Peeta and Haymitch… that scene in the train did not have any of the impact of the scene in the book, and it is one that a motion picture could have done really well. On action the movie did well, but I greatly dislike the being of the film as well. Where was the class divide in distract 12? That is a big reason for Katniss in the book to explain away her feels for Peeta. If they wanted to have shot of Gales reaction, they could have just put him in a scene as the community back in distract 12 watched the game with Prim because it was a poor distract there was not equal access to viewing. (Get that they took out the mayor’s talk with her along with the others…I was okay with them cutting Madge until I saw how much it changed the sub stories for me and the other figure that would have clearly shown the class divide and Gales views on that, even within district 12, them vs us mentality that leads Gale to his later actions and choices.)
    They also waited forever to have the screen shot of of the bread scene, they could do a short clip of it as soon as Peeta’s name was called then show his face.For the movie purpose if they had to make cut in the hunger games story plot, any linger of a true love triangle should have been cut and have gale just try win over Katniss in the other films as he notes her changing a bit around him, really he was like family to her, she did not need there relationship to be more than what it was, he was too much like her. The movie failed to show than Gale was as hot headed as Katniss, really both him and Peeta are not really real people in the movie… only Rue and the action setting of the games were good. (I forgave the eyes of the hounds not be as they should).


  8. Deanne Young
    Aug 17, 2012 @ 23:56:18

    You were reading at 4 but stuff way past yourself, to get into gifted the psychologist had to give you 10th grade reading material in 3rd grade before you got beyond what you could answer on tests about what you’d read–she said it’s not just IQ but if person persists beyond abilities and you hung on thru 8th and 9th grade reading material and wouldn’t quit at 10th and give in either.At 5 you were doing this adult puzzle in this weekly mag and getting them all right weekly .


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: