Thursday, 26 April 2012

The Hunger Games - Book vs Film

I am a huge fan of the books so I was excited and nervous when I heard a film would be made. I hoped it would be able to capture the excitement of the books but I had my doubts and unfortunately they were proven true.

I really wanted to love the film but I just didn't. That's not to say it wasn't done well, I could see the film makers had done their best, they had a great cast, a good script and they followed the story to a tee but it just didn't work for me. So why not?

Well, because it didn't move me. I felt nothing as I watched Katniss fighting for her life yet when I read it I was gripped. Completely gripped. I felt Katniss' pain, her sacrifice, her urge to survive, her anger, her sadness but during the film I had no emotional reaction except for disappointment.

The other problem I find is the need in films to switch between characters. The book may well be in the first person but in films they always want to show the bad guys, the background characters and so the intensity present in the book is missing. It becomes watered down here for example we see the gamemaker and president Snow making their plans and that detracts from Katniss' struggle. Another example of this is Eclipse - the third film in the twilight series where they add in the perspective of Bree Tanner - not shown in the original book but published as a short story later - and so take away from the core story.

The other watered down aspect of the film was the violence. Despite what you may have heard in the papers The Hunger Games movie is not particularly violent and this is a negative in my opinion. The fighting in the books is shocking and harsh and sends a message. The fighting in the film is weak and unexciting, there's no blood or gore - this may be a decision based on the audience or their age rating but it leaves you uninvolved. It doesn't look real or terrifying and it should. That's the point. The hunger games are designed to break the population, to keep them under control and we should be horrified by that and yet in the film I don't think that point comes across as stongly as it should.

It's always hard to turn any book into a film, partly because when you read a story you imagine it in your head, you see it a certain way and then it jars with you when the filmmakers do something different. Just occasionally they do something startling - they make it better. It's rare I admit but the Lord of  the Rings trilogy is a classic example. Peter Jackson did a fantastic job with it and exceeded everyone's expectations.
More often I'm disappointed, the Harry Potter films, the Twilight saga , they're all good films but not quite as good as the books:

Harry Potter because too much had to be left out leaving the story sketchy and malformed, oftimes hard to follow if you hadn't read the books first.

Twilight had the same problem as the Hunger Games but to a lesser degree and that is the lack of voice.

Bella and Katniss both have striking, unique, enchanting voices that you can't help but love but they don't exist in the film and so you lose a huge part of the understanding and all of the empathy.
One of the wonderful things about books is that they allow us to see inside someone's head and it immerses us into their world...but on film that link is gone, we only understand what we can physically see and hear, we don't have the inner monologue and it makes a difference.
So, what does that mean, can great books with a strong first person voice be recreated on the big screen? I don't know to be honest but certainly not in this case.

I am sure Hunger Games will be a huge success and anyone who hasn't read the books will probably love it but  for me, it will never work, will never replace the books and that's fine, disappointing but fine. Not every book should be a film. Some of them live on best in our own imaginations.

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