Well, now that The Hunger Games is out on DVD I guess it’s about time I post my thoughts on the movie adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ brilliant book. For the most part, I thought it was fantastic. They got a lot of things just exactly right, (Caesar Flickerman, anyone?), and I loved that we got to see things outside of Katniss p.o.v., like the Gamemakers and President Snow. I mean, the characterization of Seneca Crane was one of my favorite things about the movie, which I never would have predicted from just reading the book.
Seneca Crane: the bad guy that doesn’t realize he’s a villain. (And is also totally hot. With an awesome beard.)
I didn’t mind any of the narrative changes that were made between book and movie, because they all served to tell the story better in the visual format. Cutting out Madge and making the mockingjay pin a re-gift from Prim to Katniss instead was a wonderful decision for the movie. Movies just don’t have time for all the details in a book, (which is why I would say this movie is a great companion to the book, and I wouldn’t recommend it on it’s own. I mean it’s a great movie, but people should both watch the movie and read the book. The book is Katniss’ story, but the movie is able to show the bigger picture, the national conflict that her story takes place within.) Anyway, there isn’t much time at the beginning of the film to establish the character dynamics between Katniss and Prim, incredibly important because saving Prim is Katniss’ entire motivation for volunteering. (A scene, by the way, which makes me cry every time I read it, see it in the trailer, or the movie. Self-sacrifice!) Everything they showed in District 12 was excellent exposition. The added detail about a finger prick being part of the reaping registration was genius, because it showed why the thought of Prim going to the Hunger Games is so horrific–girl can’t even shed a drop of blood from her finger without crying.
I know a lot of book fans hated the decision to cut out Katniss’ receiving a gift of bread from District 11 after Rue’s death, and replace it with scenes of a District 11 riot, but I actually really liked it. It shows that Katniss inspires people to rebel against the Capital that they already hate, which is what happens in the books! It’s just that in the books, Katniss has no idea there are rebellions until Catching Fire, and she doesn’t really realize what a powerful symbol to the revolution she herself is until halfway through Mockingjay. The riot scene in the Hunger Games movie shows an immediate response in the Districts to Katniss’ actions in the Arena, and for all we know there were minor riots during the Games. That scene also demonstrates that the Capital is still powerful enough to shut down these rebellions immediately, violently, decisively. It fits well with President snow’s lecture to Seneca Crane on the manipulative nature of the Games, “A little hope is fine, but a lot of hope can be dangerous. Contain it.” Soldiers and hoses is how the Capital contains an outbreak of too much “hope.” And then, after that riot scene, the movie cuts back to Katniss sobbing in the Arena feeling utterly abandoned and alone, with absolutely no idea that so many people are behind her on the outside. It’s great storytelling and totally in line with the direction the book is going.
Almost all of my movie criticisms were trivial; (I don’t like the shaky cam, Jennifer Lawrence really can’t sing very well, why couldn’t they get an orange cat for Buttercup, or a decent wig for Haymitch?), but the biggest flaw in the movie involved one of the most important characters–Peeta. Oh, Peeta. Easily my favorite character in the book, yet unfortunately the biggest disappointment in the movie. And I don’t think it’s Josh Hutcherson’s fault, even though I wasn’t sure about his casting before I saw the film. If you watch Hutcherson in interviews, he’s lovably adorable and very Peeta-esque. It’s the script. And it’s a shame, because almost every single movie-Peeta scene is excellent. It’s just, the ones that were bad were crucial to his character, and now I’m afraid Movie-Peeta might have been ruined for the rest of the series.
I don’t want to be overly negative, because I really did love the movie. So before I bemoan the bastardization of my favorite character, here is a list of Great Movie-Peeta Moments:
- When he’s waving and smiling at the Capital crowd from the train.
- Peeta grabbing Katniss-on-Fire’s hand and saying, “Come on, they’ll love it!”, helping her gain favor with the crowd and potential sponsors. Knowing just how to play the audience and selflessly benefiting her.
- When he says he has no chance of winning, and tells about his mom saying that “District 12 might finally have a winner, but she wasn’t talking about me, she was talking about you.”
- When she’s going in for her evaluation and he says, “Hey Katniss–shoot straight.”
- Peeta’s interview with Ceasar. Come on. It’s golden.
- Peeta on the rooftop, the night before the Games. Exactly right, just what Book-Peeta would have said, (and in fact very close to what he did say).
- Peeta yelling at Katniss for her to “get out of here, go!” after the tracker jacker incident.
- Peeta’s camoflauge
- Flashback Peeta throwing Katniss the bread, and cave-Peeta saying “I think about that all the time, how I tossed you that bread. I should have gone to you, I should have gone out in the rain…” beating himself up because his act of mercy wasn’t chivalrous enough! So great.
- Peeta remembering meeting kindergarten Katniss, “the teacher asked ‘who knows the valley song?’ and your hand shot right up…”
- Peeta joking “I’ll take the bow.”
- Peeta tapping Cato’s hand, signaling for Katniss to shoot him there, and Peeta pushing Cato off the cornucopia.
- Peeta not even hesitating when they revoke the two-winners rule, and telling Katniss to, “Go ahead, [shoot me]. One of us should go home. One of us has to die, they have to have their victor.” (subtext: and it should be you, I’ve been prepared to die for you this whole time, I love you.)
- post-Games Peeta reaching for Katniss’ hand and telling Caesar, “She saved my life.”
- Peeta on the train home saying that he doesn’t want to forget.
Camo Peeta! Of course, Movie-Camo-Peeta croaks, “Katniss…” where Book-Camo-Peeta says “You here to finish me off, sweetheart?” and “Well, don’t step on me.”
That’s a lot of great Movie-Peeta moments! But…remember what I said earlier about Katniss self-sacrifice for Prim making me cry every time? It’s the same with book-Peeta; he may not be the most physically strong, he may not poses all the skills Katniss does, but his strength of character lies in his utter selflessness, his devotion to Katniss’ well-being over his own. It is a strength, it is his greatest strength, (as Divergent‘s Four says in chapter 24, “it’s when you’re acting selflessly that you are at your bravest,”) but Movie-Peeta’s concern for Katniss is portrayed as a weakness and an obsession.
Movie-Peeta plaintively asks Katniss, “why not?” when she says “I’m not gonna leave you. I’m not gonna do that.” Movie-Peeta says “I’m not gonna let you risk your life for me,” and “why are you doing this?” when Katniss plans to go get the medicine from the Feast. When she kisses him, he says, “Now there’s no way I’m letting you go. Please. Stay.” Later, when Katniss returns with the medicine, Movie-Peeta whines “What happened? You shouldn’t have gone, you said you weren’t gonna go!” Begging. Pleading. Plaintive. Whiney. Weak!
Movie-Peeta is almost a damsel in distress that needs Katniss to rescue him. Book-Peeta may not have survived without Katniss’ help, but he wasn’t helpless.
Book-Peeta does not beg. Book-Peeta maintains his wit and cracks jokes and flirts even as he lies dying in the cave. Let’s compare whiney, beg-y Movie-Peeta to Book-Peeta, when Katniss is trying to argue she should go for the medicine.
Anger flushes my face. “All right, I am going, and you can’t stop me!”
“I can follow you. At least partway. I may not make it to the Cornicopia, but if I’m yelling your name, I bet someone can find me. And then I’ll be dead for sure,” he says.
“You won’t get a hundred yards from here on that let,” I say.
“Then I’ll drag myself,” says Peeta. “You go and I’m going, too.”
Book-Katniss literally has to knock Book-Peeta out with drugs to keep him in the cave while she goes for the medicine. But Movie-Peeta is all, “Oh please, don’t go, kiss me, now seriously don’t go,” then falls into regular sleep, and then whines “Aw, how come you went?!” when she gets back. Book-Peeta’s argument is, “If you try to risk your life for me I will actively sabotage your efforts by sacrificing mine for you instead,” while Movie-Peeta’s argument is “Please don’t go, I might lay here and cry if you do.” Movie-Peeta in the cave scenes is by far the worst part of the movie, and the undermining of his entire character in the film. This gives me no joy to type. In fact it gives me a big ol’ frowny face. But there can be no other conclusion. Move-Peeta utterly fails to convey the strength of character of Book-Peeta. Movie makers, please, please improve upon this in the next movie! I would gladly take an ugly Finnick in exchange for a proper Peeta.
I mean, when I read the books, I’m like, “Katniss, choose Peeta! Obviously he is the perfect choice and you’re totally in love with him, admit it!” But watching the movie, I’m like, “meh, I can see why she wouldn’t really fall for him.” The movie didn’t convey that she felt anything, that any moment was more than acting for the cameras for her. And why should it be, if Movie-Peeta is such a whiner?
I have one more character complaint; this one didn’t bother me as much, but I didn’t love Movie-Cinna, either. I felt that Lenny Kravitz was too abrupt with the delivery of his lines. He starts talking as soon as he enters the room, and I think he talks too fast for the character, too. Maybe it couldn’t be helped; maybe they couldn’t afford the screentime for him to just sit quietly with Katniss, but that’s the dynamic that book-Cinna and book-Katniss have, he’s gentle and he’s a listener and they are comfortable in each others’ silence. Right before she enters the Arena in the book, they just sit together quietly. Movie-Cinna was pretty good, but if I hadn’t already loved book-Cinna so much I don’t know if he would have made much of an impression on me. I mean his aesthetic is great, but I don’t feel like they established the relationship between Tribute and stylist enough in the movie alone for the audience to be emotionally invested, and **SPOILER ALERT** to be devastated when he is beaten bloody and killed in Catching Fire. **END SPOILER**
Okay, I think I’m done ranting.