Hunger Games: Don’t hate me but I liked the movie better

Ok, I know everyone is buzzing about the Hunger Games. It is the new thing…just like Harry Potter, or Twilight. It is the new teen sensation and somehow or other it is effecting more than just young adults, as the twenty-something-crowd hover in the isles of the books stores and hungrily devour these books. (Maybe this craving and sensationalizing books by the twenty-to-thirty-somethings really is a side effect of all those years of reading HP, waiting with baited breath for each new novel and then the movies.  We are to blame; we created the monsters!)

Warning!!!  If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie: Spoiler Alert!! 

Now, I am going to say it…and everyone who knows me is cringing (even I am cringing a little).  I liked the movie more than the book*…

What?!

Why!?

How could an English major be so cruel to a book?  How could I, the proponent that books are always better than the movie, say such a thing!?

Well, let me explain.  Here are my issues with the book

  • First Person Present Tense!  For some of you, I don’t need to say more but for those of you who are not convinced continue to read my other issues and you’ll begin to understand how limiting and annoying the perspective is.
  • Katniss. (Yup, I said it, and many of you are going to hate me, but please hear me out).  I love Katniss…she is as they say “badass!”  She is everything a powerful, young, confident, woman could and would hope to be. But she is a terrible narrator. She is so limited, oblivious and self-absorbed that I find her version of events distracting, which is sad because the world is so fascinating and there is so much going on that Katniss does not know about or even comprehend.  Hence, why the first person perspective in this book is, well, disappointing.  All my complaints stem from this aspect of Katniss’s personality.  She is in my mind the worst person to tell the story.
  • The Capital: My problem with the Capital is not the Capital itself…it is how narrowly it is depicted and how shallowly it is described.  Katniss knows hardly anything about her world.  She barely even understands her own District 12.  I constantly felt like I wanted or needed more of the world and Katniss could not deliver it.  Her scope is focused on Prim, hunting, and survival.  She does not comprehend her world outside of that, for which you cannot fault her.  I understand those things are part of what makes Katniss, well, Katniss.  I just wanted more of the world.  I wanted to know how the markets and Peacekeepers work.  What about trade with the other Districts? They have television and technology but how did it translate into the day-to-day lives of the Districts?  So many questions and no answers. The Capital is this giant ostentatious thing that is never fully explained not because the Suzanne Collins doesn’t understand the workings of the world, but because Katniss doesn’t understand.
  • Lack of introspection:  Everything is told as the events happen.  Everything is like watching a live broadcast of a game, which I have no doubt is part of Collins’ overall intent on using first person present tense.  But this live play by play leaves very little room for understanding characters particularly when they do things that are not typical to their personality.  Katniss does not spend a lot of time thinking about what she has done or why she has done it, which makes since with her survival instincts and skills.  Her behavior once she gets to the Capital does not make sense for a character who is  in essence has spent her life hunting in the woods, surviving.  All of a sudden Katniss, who is described as being rather introverted, starts waving and smiling and acting like she might actually enjoy the attention.  But she doesn’t reflect on her behavior.  You only get what she sees and feels in the moment but not the thought process of introspection. Don’t get me wrong, there are times that she does think about what she is doing and that little glimpse we see of her then is invaluable.  Katniss’s treatment of Rue is so beautiful.  It is an elegant expression of human compassion in a world that is dark and barbaric with no sense of the true value of life.  And Collins’ gives time for Katniss to reflect and give purpose to her actions.

Now that I have complained about the book, let me share my joy over how the movie corrected these problems.

First of all…I was not stuck in Katniss’s head!  The story no doubt follows Katniss, but you get to see other characters and how they react to things that are happening to Katniss.  I loved seeing Katniss’s mom and sister watching the Hunger Games and even seeing Gale sitting alone in the woods, knowing that they were each grieving in their own way.  District 11’s reaction to Rue’s death was a brilliant add in.  And I loved how the movie used the game show/athletic competition commentary to explain things and give depth to the world.  Oh, and all the underhanded politics that went on with the President and the Game Master. It was all truly great insight into the world that I would have loved to have read in the book.  It added such depth to the story, to the world, and all of the events. 

Yup, the book was good, but the movie had so much more…well, more elements and a fuller perspective on Panam that I have to say I will definitely watch the movie again, but I doubt I’ll pick up the book again.  So sad but true…maybe I am just too demanding, or maybe I just have issues.  But for all of you who read the book and loved it – Love on!  For those of you who understand my pain – come and commiserate with me.  Let me know what you thought of the book or movie.

 

_____________

*Disclaimer:  I have not read any of the other books in the series.  So my assessment of the world and writing of the books are solely based on Hunger Games.

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About LizzyBeth

There is a Story inside of me that I must give a voice. I write so that imagination can take me to Faerie and I can catch a glimpse of the Otherworld and hopefully so will you.

Posted on March 30, 2012, in Books, Lantern Hollow Press Authors, Literary Criticism, Movie Reviews, Rachel Burkholder, The Hunger Games and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. I know what you mean with the 1st person tense.. its just so weird. But oddly, it makes reading faster. To me that is.

    • Yeah, I did read the book pretty fast. There is an element of urgency that 1st person present tense exudes, but when I look at it objectively I am just dissatisfied with the style.

      • I’m more annoyed about how evtryehing resolved suddenly, in one page at the very end. I wish there could have been something just a little earlier with Katniss and Peetah so it wasn’t just “oh, okay. that’s random” making up one or two lines in the last page. I felt shortchanged, not satisfied at all.

  2. I actually agree pretty completely with your assessment except one thing: Katniss knows the other competitors in The Hunger Games better in the book than the film. I had the feeling reading the book that Suzanne Collins didn’t really know her world that well (though maybe she didn’t know ours; each district has only one important industry and District 12; all of Appalachia, was just one little coal mining town?) but she did know who Katniss had to survive against. In the film they’ve expanded our knowledge of Panem and the Capitol especially; the scenes with Stanley Tucci were a particular delight, but we never really see the other tributes except Rue and Cato. But overall, I agree with you; in fact you may have formed my opinion with your last paragraph more than anything else. I won’t read the book again. It really wasn’t all that good. The movie has far more replay value than the book has reread value.

    • Yeah, you are right Collins’s concept of the 12 Districts is perhaps a little naive and single-minded. And you are right about Katniss. She did take the time to learn about her competition, mostly out of survival but still it was good insight into her character and the other tributes. I did enjoy reading it. But Stanely Tucci made up for that lack of discussion in the movie. He was truly brilliant, and I did not feel wanting for more information on the tributes, in fact if anything I wanted more of Tucci’s commentary!
      Thanks for your insight 🙂

      • Alright, as you know, Rachel I already completely disagree with your opinion of the use of 1st person present perspective in the book because we’ve already talked at length about it in person. I haven’t seen the movie yet (waiting for Melissa to come back from Scotland first :D) but from what I can tell, the reason you like the movie so much better is because the medium suites your expectations better. I don’t think you would have been happy with the book even if it was written in a traditional 3rd-person past perspective, mostly because Collin’s rate of distribution of information about her world would still have been too slow because she spreads a good deal of what you say they put in the movie across two other books. For example, you said that they added some political intrigue in the movie, whereas Katniss is completely unaware of the political goings on until the second book, and doesn’t really know what the heck President Snow is up to until the third. Even with a third person narration, if Collins wanted to preserve this rate of information distribution, she would not have been able to fill in what you seem to think she needed.

        Obviously, in a movie, you cannot effectively have a first-person perspective, and so the script had to be written with scenes that inform the audience of enough information to make sense of the plot, world, and characters without the filter of Katniss’s first-hand experience. She doesn’t explain everything because it is HER world, and so much of how things works has to be implied by her experience, and if the book was in a third-person style, the distribution of information would be handled differently because it would not be informed by her perspective.

        So, I’m glad the movie’s style worked for you, but I don’t think it does it “better” than the book- it does it “differently” because it’s a movie and not a book, and that shift of medium changes everything.

        • Thanks for the other side of the argument 🙂
          Katniss is still a terrible narrator 😛

          • Somebody has to ^_^

            BTW, can you think of any other stories that have the same narrative style that you don’t feel this way about? I think you mentioned some when we talked about it.

  3. I am so behind. For shame. I keep reading posts about this book. I have not read it. Gulp. I guess it’s time I do that. Then I’ll watch the movie. Thank you. Nice post.

  4. I just saw the movie last night and definitely agree with you on all counts. Maybe I’m just biased because I was reading Ken Follett right before picking up The Hunger Games, but I thought the characters in the book were really one-dimensional. I hadn’t felt any emotional attachment to Katniss – or any of the characters, for that matter – until I saw the movie.

    Thanks for posting – glad I’m not the only who feels this way! 🙂

    • Yeah I think that is one of the depressing things about the book, that lack of emotional connection. I was more intrigued by the world then by the characters. But the movie just seemed to make up for all the flaws in the book.

  5. Interesting post! I actually started reading Hunger Games yesterday, in hope to finish the book and go see the movie after the hype dies down a little. I’ve actually postponed reading the novel because something pulls me back every time I went to the bookstore. Even now, I feel like the storyline and the concept is pretty good just up till now, I have had similar issues that you discussed, especially with how limited we know about the Capital and the Districts.

    On the other hand, I am looking forward to see the movie. I’ve heard really good things about it.

    • Since everyone else seems to think there’s not enough info, just out of curiosity, how much is enough? Do you think that Collins could have realistically presented the level of detail you want into a story with a first-person present narration? I’m wondering if this all boils down to the limits of the perspective.

      The Hunger Games is one of the only books that I’ve ever thought that this narrative style works for, but apparently I’m alone in thinking that 😀

  6. Interesting discussion. At first I also disliked the present-tense 1st-person narration in the book because it was so limiting, but as I read more I realized it was refreshing. Nearly all the novels I read are 1st-person past-tense or a 3rd-person variation, and the Hunger Games provided something new, and well, a little exotic. It took a couple chapters to adjust to the writing style, but I came to appreciate the intensity it offered, because Katniss’s world/life is so urgent and in-the-moment.
    The movie did offer some behind-the-scenes insight into the world of Panem, which, like you, I appreciated because I enjoy knowing how fictional governments work. So, while I enjoyed the rounding-out the movie gave the book, I have to say that the book’s urgency and mild instability comes out on top. It’ll be nice to read the book and watch the movie at the same time since they balance the other’s weaknesses (lack of information, character-building, etc)
    I agree with you, erikthereddest! 🙂
    Thanks for the great discussion. It’s enlightening/interesting knowing that not *everyone* likes the book more than the movie. 🙂

  7. The aspects of the book that you did not like are the exact aspects that allow the reader to “feel” the story. The movie lacks pretty much every bit of suspense, intensity, confusions, depth, etc. The movie has completely oversimplified the story line so that is just about an evil President’s idea of entertainment. You can hardly even tell that the people in District 12 are starving…you know nothing about any of the other districts. I’m reading the book for the third time (the first time was in 2010) and then I plan to review the movie, but I feel that the movie doesn’t really make much sense to someone who hasn’t already read the book. Those Star Wars-esq lines at the beginning hardly cut it. I’m still holding out on my final opinion of the movie, but the book is very good…and, frankly, shouldn’t even be compared to Twilight.

    • Becky,
      You and Erikthereddest are in agreement on the book. And you right, there were aspects of the that failed to deliver the depth that was in the book particularly District 12.
      Maybe I just need reread the book.
      And I would never compare the book to Twilight (I really cannot stand those books) I was merely comparing the craze and enthusiasm for the books with Harry Potter and Twilight.
      Thank you for your insight.

  8. well i read the book because everyone does (and yes, i’m not proud of that fact)… and i read it so fast, i allmost couldn’t put it away, because it was so suspenseful… i had no problem with katniss telling the story, of course i want to know more about the capital and what’s the main problem there but i think all will be revealed in the other books (which i didn’t read yet)… i think telling all about the games and the other tributs and katniss feelings about them was ok and well written… so i definetly will pick the first book up again and read it once more… and i also hunger for the next one, because of the open questions about the capital… the only thing i really didn’t like was the we-turn-all-dead-kids-into-scary-furry-monsters-thing… what was that about??? i hope this part isn’t in the movie… (which i also didn’t watch yet)…

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