Thursday, April 19, 2012


This weekend The Hunger Games movie finally hit South African theatres! The movie is, of course, based on the novel of the same name by Suzanne Collins. Having heard only great things about the adaptation I had high expectations for the film version, and I was not disappointed!

The Hunger Games is set in a post-apocalyptic world in the country of Panem. The wealthy metropolis known as the Capitol has full control over all twelve of the poorer Districts which surround it. As punishment for a previous rebellion wherein District Thirteen was completely destroyed, the Capitol annually hosts the Hunger Games, an event where each of the twelve Districts must provide one young man and one young woman between the ages of 12 and 18, called Tributes, to participate in a televised fight to the death in a vast outdoor arena controlled by the Capitol. Over several weeks the 24 Tributes must fight to the death while trying to survive in the outdoor arena filled with traps, poisonous creatures and plants, and some artificial disasters created by the Gamemakers for the audience’s entertainment. The last Tribute standing wins a life of wealth back home, and a precious supply of food and delicacies for his or her District. A lottery draw determines the names of the Tributes who must participate, and in the girls category District Twelve draws the name of 12 year old Primrose Everdeen. Mortified by the thought of Prim being subjected to the horrors of the Games, her 16 year old sister Katniss Everdeen steps up and volunteers to take her place. In the boys category District Twelve draws the name of Peeta Mellark, the baker’s son who once saved Katniss and her family from starvation. In the arena Katniss and Peeta will not only have to fight each other, but 22 others including Career Tributes – Tributes illegally trained to participate in the Games from a young age.

I thoroughly enjoyed every single one of the 142 minutes. Director Gary Ross did a fantastic job on the movie, and though there are several notable changes from the novel, none have major influences on the storyline as a whole.

Changes include little things like who gives Katniss the Mockingjay pin. In the movie it is one of the black marketers in the Hob, in the book it is Madge Undersee. What the movie furthermore fails to mention is the significance of the Mockingjay pin – the Mockingjay is a hybrid, a mix between a Mockingbird and a Jabberjay. The Capitol bred the Jabberjays to spy on the rebels during the Dark Days, to report any talk of rebellion to the Capital. Jabberjays could memorise and repeat entire conversations. The people soon discovered this and then used the Jabberjays to feed the Capitol false information, making a mockery of the Capitol. Jabberjays were then secluded to die, but unbeknownst to the Capitol the Jabberjays had bred with Mockingbirds, resulting in the Mockingjay, which turned into a symbol of rebellion. In the book Cinna gets permission for Katniss to wear her District’s symbol during the Games; in the movie he secretly pins it on her jacket without the Capitol’s knowledge.

Cinna shows Katniss her Mockingjay pin, pinned to her jacket

A big change to the movie is the whole scene surrounding Peeta’s medicine. In the book Peeta makes Katniss promise him that she won’t go to the Cornucopia for the medicine he needs. She promises, but Haymitch sends her a potion to knock him out. She drugs him to go to sleep, and he’s furious with her over it later on. Also, the severity of Katniss’ head-wound courtesy of Clove is downplayed in the movie – it’s just a little nick. In the book Katniss bleeds so badly that she passes out right after giving Peeta the medicine he needs. It is then Peeta’s turn to take care of Katniss. This scene was completely omitted from the film, to my disappointment. Katniss and Peeta’s bonding in the cave is a great part of the book, and it didn’t fully develop in the movie. I loved their good-natured mockery of Haymitch, and the romantic that I am, I loved the scene where Katniss tells Peeta “You don’t have much competition anywhere” (even though she is playing to the audience). Great scenes not included in the movie.

In the movie, the mutations attacking Peeta, Katniss and Kato are just vicious attack dogs, if you will. In the book the mutations are formed from the DNA from the 21 dead tributes. I have to admit that the book version was more disturbing – bringing back vengeful former tributes with claws and fangs. I was slightly more afraid for Katniss and Peeta in the book.

Additions to the film version that I especially enjoyed was the behind the scenes look at how the Gamemakers run the Games – especially how they manipulate it.

Katniss running from fireballs

The moment when you see the screen with the trackers, realizing that they’d used the fireballs to chase Katniss right onto the path of the Careers, you realize again that it’s all just a big game to them.

The Careers find Katniss

I also love how the movie shows District 11’s rebellion upon little Rue’s death.

Haymitch Abernathy’s drunkenness is toned done in the movie – a good call all round. I had no desire to see him embarrass District 12 by drunkenly falling off stage at the reaping, punching Peeta, or throwing up. You still understand that he’s a cynical alcoholic, so I don’t mind that those scenes were removed. Furthermore, we get to see how he campaigns for his tributes, convincing the sponsors to send them aid.

I was very excited to see how the movie portrayed Katniss and Peeta on fire for the Opening Ceremony, and Katniss’ jeweled dress for the interviews. I expected them to change it, somehow, but they didn’t, and it looked great!

The three finger salute made me very emotional every time. As with the Mockingjay pin, the movie didn’t mention the significance of the three finger salute. It is a gesture rarely used, meaning thanks, admiration and good-bye to a loved one. It is an honour to receive a three finger salute. First, District 12 gives Katniss the three finger salute after she volunteers in the reaping to save Prim, then Katniss gives District 11 the three finger salute after they send her the bread meant for Rue, and District 11 salutes her right back.

I like how the film version showed that Seneca Crane was locked in a room, forced to eat nightlock as punishment for failing to contain Katniss, resulting in her and Peeta one upping the Capitol in front of the entire Panem. I’m not saying he deserved it, I’m saying it effectively shows just how cold and calculating President Snow is, and that Katniss and Peeta are in danger, despite winning.

Katniss and Peeta

What I didn’t like about the movie, for one, is that Katniss and Rue’s alliance was much more tangible in the book. Their time together in the movie seemed just too short, and their friendship wasn’t really portrayed as deeply as it is in the book. What the movie also fails to mention is that Rue reminded Katniss of Prim, and that she thought of Rue as her little sister. Katniss was invested in keeping Rue safe as best she could, but it didn’t fully come across in the movie.

Katniss and Rue

Also, in the book, when the Gamemakers announce that the rules have changed and a team consisting of both tributes from the same District can win the Games, Katniss yells out Peeta’s name in a moment of uncontrolled excitement. As these moments are rare for Katniss, it was a nice moment. In the movie version, however, she simply whispers “Peeta”. Not as intense.

Lastly, the ending. In the book, Peeta’s leg is amputated and he realizes that Katniss played him. You see, in the book Katniss realizes that Haymitch only sends aid when she plays into the star-crossed-lovers-theme. She does this several times – granted, to save both herself and Peeta, but still, she’s laying it on thick. At the ending of the book, Peeta is a broken, wounded guy who realizes that the girl he loves doesn’t love him back, she was just acting. The movie gives the impression that Katniss wasn’t acting as much, and the Peeta is all healthy and doesn’t feel betrayed at all. The book ending is much more tense, and builds the suspense for the next installment.

President Snow reluctantly crowning Katniss and Peeta as Victors

I have to say that the casting for this film was spot on, and I especially loved Lenny Kravitz as Cinna and Woody Harrerlson as Haymitch. The setting of the movie was also brilliantly done. Panem was portrayed exactly as I had imagined, as was the arena.

Having read the book, knowing what to expect, it was still quite disturbing watching these kids kill each other.  The whole notion of Panem, and the Games, does cause one to think about the planned New World Order.  The Vigilant Citizen did a really interesting article on the possible connection.  You can check it out here.

The first draft of the script for Catching Fire, the second installment of the Hunger Games Trilogy, has already been completed. Sadly, Director Gary Ross has already confirmed that he will not be directing Catching Fire. Directors currently on the shortlist to take over the helm, are David Cronenberg (Top Gun), Alfonso Cuaron (Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel), Bennet Miller (Moneyball) and Francis Lawrence (I am legend). Catching Fire is set to be released 22 November 2013.

The Hunger Games DVD release date is said to be earmarked for August 2012.

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