Monday, February 25, 2013

Books to Movies: The Hunger Games versus The Hunger Games

Adam C. Zern shares his thoughts on the film adaptation of Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games:

"I enjoyed The Hunger Games book.  In fact, I gave it an honorable mention in my Best Books of 2011 blog post.  I also enjoyed The Hunger Games film quite a bit, and I consider it an excellent example of how to adapt a book into a film instead of trying to put a book on film.

One of my biggest grumbles against the Harry Potter film franchise is that the filmmakers slavishly plodded away at an undesirable goal; to wit, be so loyal to the source material that the films feel more like books than movies.  When I go to watch a movie, I want to see a movie, not a book on screen.  The Hunger Games book, as well as Catching Fire and Mockingjay, are told in the first-person perspective.  The reader lives and breaths Katniss Everdeen.  Sometimes that worked well for the books and sometimes it was overbearing.  It was my single greatest worry going in to watch the film adaptation.  No doubt the love dynamics that exist within Katniss's mind is prime entertainment for a certain demographic, but I think it would have been nigh unbearable to watch on film.  (How could you express it on film?  Through voice-overs?  Stilted dialog?). 

Thankfully, the filmmakers, and to Suzanne Collins's credit since she helped pen the screenplay, chose not to tell the entire story, albeit a large portion is, only through Katniss's perspective in the film version of The Hunger Games.  At various times the audience is taken into the 'control room,' for lack of a better word, which provides the audience some context on the action that the reading audience didn't have.  Furthermore, it created suspense at the appropriate times because the audience knows what harm is to come when the main character does not, a classic film making technique.  Also, the movie audience was treated to glimpses of events that the reading audience wasn't aware of until reading Catching Fire, the second book in the franchise, as well experiencing scenes, characters, and dialog that the reading audience could never have been exposed to due to the limitation of the perspective in the book.  It was the right choice for the film, even if it may not have been for the book.

I could share more examples, but I think this will suffice.  The Hunger Games is an entertaining book and movie, but they are different in their approach and they're better for it.  Hopefully, Catching Fire blazes its own path as a film like it's predecessor, and if it does it will be following a good example."

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