The Books and the Films: Hunger Games Edition

I hinted in my last post (rant...) that I wanted to do an overview on some series, having a look at the Books and the Films. Now, obviously, this is just opinion - I'm not definitively saying one medium did it better than the other, but I do want to show how these stories are different.

I want to offer people who have only seen one or read the other a quick comparison at the grass on the other side, and how reading/watching the other 'version' could provide a different perspective, instead of just rehashing old ground. It's also spoiler-free, so if you haven't read and/or seen these, you can safely consume this without fear of ruining the end.

So, first book/film series - The Hunger Games


The Hunger Games series is a science fiction/drama set in a dystopian America, following the late teenage years of Katniss Everdeen and her struggle to survive in a repressive, brutal, and violent society.

The first major difference between the books and the films is the way the story is told. The books show you a first-person account of Katniss' life, allowing you to know her innermost thoughts, but limiting your point of view to just her. The wider struggle of everyone else is only seen through her eyes.

In the films, this would never work, so they use the traditional approach to telling the story, but Katniss is still the main protagonist. You spend most of your time as a viewer with her. But this doesn't let you know what she's thinking, which makes it harder to empathise with her situation.

Without the empathising, it's quite hard to 'like' Katniss in the films. Her character seems detached and cold, except in regards to her sister. In the books, you know what she's feeling, when, and why. In saying that, it can be quite jarring to read a book in the first-person. I don't generally like it, but once you get over the initial shock, it's worth it for the insight.

This is really highlighted in the last book/film. Without going into details (though if you haven't seen these books/films, I'm impressed you're reading this), Katniss goes through a very traumatic situation. In the books, she fully shuts down and you're walked through her stages of grief and mental collapse. Throughout the book, you've learnt that the reason she's so... prickly... is because she's a survivor. She does what she needs to get by. The love triangle between her and the two main male characters is a great example. She tells them what they want to hear because it's easier. She gets what she needs from them. It's not malicious, she's just trying to get through the day. But when this final event happens, you see her break. She's won the battle but lost the war...

Despite the victory, Katniss is lost. She tries to get a level or normalcy in her life but is haunted by those that never came back to the district, either through death or choice. She mulls about 'old Katniss', and struggles to cope with the memories of what happened. She ends up 'settling', and is eventually 'forced' into having a family that she doesn't want. She's a shell... And the ending leaves you in no doubt as to the damage that has been done to her psyche. 

This isn't captured in the films. Though you get to see this event take place, the true effect this has on Katniss is never felt. Whether it was the script writing or that the scenes had to be cut due to editing, I'm not sure. But it does serious damage to Katniss' character, as it looks like she just shrugs it off and keeps on trucking. You'd be forgiven for thinking she's got a heart of stone until one emotional outburst with a cat tries to fill the character-development void. It doesn't do as well. To be fair, this is probably just Hollywood messing with the ending. Ruining a good story...

The advantage of the films is the visualisation. One thing I had a little trouble with while reading the books was building an image of what the spaces looked like. How they felt. This is something the set designers and digital modellers are aces at. They really nail it, and it looks stunning.

Another point is that films need to fit into acceptable timeslots. A book has no restriction. This means that the book can really flesh out a plot development, supporting characters, or side issues, whereas the film doesn't have the time. This is also best illustrated in the third book/fourth film. In the film, Katniss goes from a hospital bed to the frontlines in the space of a scene. In the book, she suffers through boot camp with Johanna (a side character with her own demons), trains, and then earns a spot on the battlefield... even if it's supposed to be for making more propaganda videos.

I don't want to give too much away, so I'll wrap it up. Despite it's 'young adult' rating, it's not a bad read/viewing. If you're into dystopia's, science fiction(ish, not really), dramas, or are just looking for something to switch off with, I'd say you give either of these mediums a shot. 

Agree with my points? Or disagree? Feel free to wade into the conversation below!