Today’s Lit to Film post is on The Hunger Games, a YA dystopian fantasy by Suzanne Collins. Picked up by Lionsgate and released in March 2012, both the novel and the film follow our heroine, Katniss Everdeen, and her struggle to win the Hunger Games—a televised, annual event where twenty-four tributes from the ages of 12 to 18 are taken from each of the twelve Districts where they live, to fight to the death in order to entertain the public. This event ensures that the government keeps its citizens under their control.
The film follows the book closely, however there are slight differences. The novel is told in Katniss’s first-person POV, while the film explores a broader scope. Along with Katniss’s reactions, we see how the Districts react to the death of their loved ones and the reaction of the villain, President Snow, to this growing unrest in the Districts.
Another difference between the two was the visuals. In the novel, Collins did not go into too much detail with Katniss’s surroundings, how people dressed and spoke. It all felt a bit vague. In the film, everything—to the settings and costumes and accents—gave viewers a clearer picture of the futuristic setting and the strangeness of the Capitol. There were also advantages in world building that the book couldn’t explore like the arena control room. We see the advancements of this world and how exactly the Gamemakers throw obstacles in the way of the tributes.
Another difference was the pace. In the first half of the novel, the pacing was slow with moments of tension, setting up for the tributes time in the arena. Once the tributes entered the arena, the pace picked up. In the film however, the set up and preparation seemed quicker then the scenes in the arena—the pacing became uneven, seemed to drag in places then speed up again and lacked the same punch that the novel had.
Speaking of punch, a thing that struck me was that the film did not carry the novel’s message of how our culture has become desensitized by violence. In the novel, I felt the horror of the violence, could feel the characters react to it and gained an emotional attachment. In the film, I expected the same but, instead, did not. There felt like little to no visceral reaction from the characters, not enough emotional attachment—thus not enough investment. The characters felt a bit distant to what was happening to them but perhaps that’s a personal preference.
Overall, I am satisfied with this adaptation. Not sure which version I’d prefer out of the two though, both had their advantages and disadvantages.
Which one—the novel or the film—in your opinion, was the best version?