You’ve probably heard SOMETHING about this book (if only that it’s been turned into a movie). I first heard about this book years ago, on a writing blog, when someone was using it as an example of good writing. So I always meant to read it. Then someone described the movie as “How Twilight should have been” – not in plot terms (Twilight is predominantly romance, and The Hunger Games is predominantly a story about war/reality TV) but in taking an introverted heroine with a distinctive voice and turning her into a film heroine.
The book review is at Comfy Chair, where I get paid for it.
It was fascinating watching the movie, which has done a good job of sticking close to the book – but even scenes that are line-by-line identical feel quite different when the viewpoint isn’t from inside Katniss’ (understandably suspicious) head. Most of the sympathy for Katniss comes from the horrors of the world she lives in, rather than a closeness to her thoughts – which works VERY well. I really enjoyed watching the worldbuilding play out. It was actually more horrifying than the book (without changing any facts) – the very visual contrast of rich and poor, the pain on people’s faces, etc.
I still don’t particularly like the premise of a deadly reality show. It’s been done on Doctor Who and presumably other places. And surely everyone in the world already knows that reality shows are sick and wrong (I saw a few minutes of “Dancing with the stars” a couple of hours after seeing the movie, and it was truly terrifying). I also don’t like my stories as tragic as this one – but I know that’s a matter of taste.
The movie chose not to use voiceover, and I’m glad. They did open the movie with a little bit of intro simply written on the screen, and they used commentators on the Hunger Games TV show to explain in a rather obvious fashion what was going on in Katniss’ head. But most of the internal information was incorporated seamlessly into the script.
Book and movie share the same problems: Katniss is a rather defensive character, which is narratively weaker than the alternative (but it can’t be easily fixed, because then you’d have a heroine gleefully setting out to kill other children). One of the weakest scenes in both the book and the movie is her TV interview (much like a beauty pageant contestant), in which Katniss finds the strength within herself to finally. . . be just like all the other girls. She’s so scared before the interview, and readers/viewers expect a breakthrough that means a bit more than the ability to smile and twirl (although smiling and twirling is actually crucial to her survival, that sense of desperation doesn’t come across).
I really did like this movie. It’s smart, and involving, and thoughtful, and dark. Despite the darkness not being my cup of tea, I do want to see it again.