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Laremy Legel

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Member of the BFCA and OFCS, writer of criticism, noted interviewer, box office oracle, walker of dog named Bugsy, Qui audet adipiscitur.

31 Differences Between The Hunger Games Book and Movie

Behold, the major differences we noticed on The Hunger Games movie versus the book. Massive spoilers throughout!

1) Mockingjay Pin procurement

Book version: Katniss is given the pin by the Mayor’s daughter, Madge. This comes as a surprise as she thought Madge didn’t like her. The pin is explained to be a subtle dig at the The Capitol, as Mockingjays were the comical result of a bio-genetic spying program that the general public gradually became aware of and used against the government.

Movie version: Katniss finds the Mockingjay pin at a rummage sale, but there’s no explanation of why the pin would be considered inflammatory towards President Snow and the ruling class.

Level of Change: Rather large as it doesn’t set up District 12’s Mayor as being somewhat human, and doesn’t show why the Mockingjay symbol matters. Furthermore, it makes Katniss the driving force behind the symbol as opposed to the simply the wearer of it, making her complicit in its power throughout, as opposed to being swept up by events larger than her.

Good or Bad Change: Overall, not great. I get wanting Katniss to be in charge of her destiny right off the bat, but this cribs some of the momentum from the next two films.

2) No Haymitch Gaffe at Ceremony

Book version: Haymitch is drunk at The Reaping and falls off the stage.

Movie version: Doesn’t exist.

Level of Change: Large. Haymitch’s first exposure from a reader’s perspective is as a drunken buffoon. The scene is also used to take away some of the tension from Katniss’ volunteering for Prim.

Good Change or Bad Change: Reasonable. My guess is that they didn’t want all that much comic relief, and coming back from the “mentor” falling off the stage would have taken too much time. An understandable cut.

3) Peeta’s Dad Bringing Gifts on the Train

Book version: Peeta’s dad brings Katniss cookies, making her realize he liked her all along. She later throws the cookies off the train as she realizes she might have to kill Peeta to get back to District 12.

Movie version: Only Prim, Gale, and Katniss’ mother are allowed to visit. Peeta’s father is never even mentioned.

Level of Change: Minimal.

Good Change or Bad Change: Another cut for time, but the audience never really gets the idea that Peeta and Katniss might have to face off. From a screenwriting perspective, this was likely one theme too many, and there simply wasn’t time to bring an audience back from that place and into a potentially romantic one. So again, a reasonable call.

4) “Embrace the prospect of your imminent death.”

Book version: They ask Haymitch for advice on the train, as he’s their mentor, and he responds with “Here’s some advice, stay alive.” Then he laughs.

Movie version: The quote above, “Embrace the prospect of your imminent death.”

Level of Change: Moderate. The book version allows for Haymitch to come around to helping Katniss and Peeta, where the movie version immediately sets up the premise that the duo is imminent danger.

Good or Bad Change: Decent to good, especially given time constraints. The movie version of the line is much less funny, but more effective narratively.

5) Haymitch and Eating

Book version: In the book, when Haymitch finally eats something (instead of drinking) it’s seen as a sign that he’s coming around.

Movie version: Haymitch eats in the first scene we see him, he takes a roll with him out of the room.

Level of Change: Minimal.

Good or Bad Change: Good, if only because movies don’t have time to focus on every small detail.

6) Haymitch and Advice on Stylists

Book version: Haymitch tells Katniss to do exactly what the stylists want, as they are there to help her attain sponsors.

Movie version: She’s sent into “grooming” without any context whatsoever.

Level of Change: Moderate, because Katniss hating the make-over is a big part of her personality.

Good or Bad Change: Bad, especially given it would have taken minimal time to impart that Katniss wasn’t big on appearances.

7) Cinna and The Holding Hands Advice

Book version: In the book, Cinna shouts that they should hold hands in front of the opening procession crowd.

Movie version: In the movie, it’s Peeta’s idea.

Level of Change: Big, because it takes away one big character motivation from Cinna (that he’s keeping the duo informed and alive), giving it to Peeta instead (making him “all about” Katniss right from the start).

Good or Bad Change: Neither, it’s just a different way to go about it, likely because they needed to establish the Peeta-Katniss bond early and often.

8 Haymitch on Training Together

Book version: Haymitch tells Katniss and Peeta to stay close to each other during training, and not to show off any special skills.

Movie version: They are just thrown into training, occasionally together, although Peeta mentions that Haymitch told them not to show off.

Level of Change: Minimal.

Good or Bad Change: Slightly bad, if only because the training scenes are missing context, so when Peeta requests to train alone it feels a bit strange.

9) The “She Was Talking About You” Moment

Book version: Peeta’s mom mentions District 12 might have its first winner, but then clarifies, referring to Katniss, “She’s a survivor”.

Movie version: Peeta just says his mom was talking about her, not how he figures it out.

Level of Change: Small, but there’s still some room to interpret that Peeta misunderstood his mother.

Good or Bad Change: Slightly bad, because it would have taken ten seconds to get the extra line of dialogue off and would have made the point more forceful, that Peeta’s mom didn’t believe in him … and that Katniss was tough.

10) The Added “Hope” Scene

Book version: Doesn’t exist.

Movie version: President Snow tells The Gamemaker not to give the people too much hope.

Level of Change: Big, because we see a true “villain” as opposed to getting only Katniss’ point of view.

Good or Bad Change: Good, mostly, as the President Snow scenes are well done, though they do take away some of the mystery from the sequels.

11) Peeta Doesn’t Bleed after Katniss Attacks

Book version: When Katniss attacks Peeta after his “crush” admission during the interview, he falls into an urn and cuts his hand on the shards.

Movie version: Katniss pushes him, but no one is really hurt.

Level of Change: Minimal.

Good or Bad Change: Understandable, but they lose a bit of Katniss continually misinterpreting Peeta’s actions.

12) No Avox Moments

Book version: Katniss recognizes a red-headed Avox who is serving her.

Movie version: Doesn’t exist.

Level of Change: Moderate, because the Avox story shows that people are attempting to flee the government, and that Katniss is haunted by not helping when she was younger.

Good or Bad Change: Understandable, clearly cut for time. My guess is they’ll establish the Avox issue in the second film.

13) The Mockingjay Pin from Cinna as a Secret

Book version: The Mockingjay pin “barely cleared the review board”.

Movie version: Cinna smuggles the pin in.

Level of Change: Big, because the book version shows The Capitol can be somewhat unpredictable.

Good or Bad Change: Bad, because the book version sets up a more complex story, while taking the same amount of time.

14) Cinna in the Tubes

Book version: As Katniss and Cinna are talking, right before games start, a glass tube lowers and separates them. He’s close to the glass and motions for Katniss to keep her head high.

Movie version: Katniss walks to the tube of her own volition.

Level of Change: Minimal, thought book version is more dramatic.

Good or Bad Change: Understandable, as the film needed to start establishing Katniss as a character in control of her own destiny, though the book does often convey the exact opposite theme.

15) Katniss Doesn’t Lose Track of Time or Blame Peeta

Book version: In the opening minute of the games, when no one is allowed to move, Katniss sees a bow and arrow. She wants it, but sees Peeta, possibly shaking his head, where upon the sun gets in her eyes and she gets disoriented. She then misses her shot at the bow.

Movie version: Peeta clearly shakes his head, telling her not to get the bow. She doesn’t lose her concentration in the sun or trying to figure out what Peeta is trying to tell her.

Level of Change: Minimal, though the book version sets up some initial tension between Peeta and Katniss.

Good or Bad Change: Good, though the book version reads well this would have been a much more difficult concept to portray visually without utilizing a voice-over.

16) Katniss Finds Water Immediately

Book version: Katniss struggles for a full day before finding water. She asks, out loud, for Haymitch to send her water via a sponsor. He doesn’t, which makes her think she’s close to water … and she is.

Movie version: She finds the pond right after running away from The Cornucopia.

Level of Change: Moderate, especially as Haymitch tells her “water will be her best friend” in the film.

Good or Bad Change: Good, but only in the interest of time.

17) No Animals Running from Fire

Book version: The Gamemaker sends a fire to force the tributes back together. Katniss runs away with deer and forest animals, though they are faster than her.

Movie version: Katniss runs alone.

Level of Change: Minimal.

Good or Bad Change: Not great, though they likely didn’t want to burn through CGI dollars.

18) Much More “In Game” Production and Gamemaker Scenes

Book version: Doesn’t exist, though Katniss surmises what the general public and gamemakers are thinking at various points.

Movie version: Many scenes where the control room for “The Hunger Games” is shown.

Level of Change: Huge, as we now have a visual foil in President Snow and the head Gamemaker.

Good or Bad Change: Understandable, as the film needed to show the difference between Katniss and the government. But it’s definitely less mysterious and forces home the “corruption of power” element much earlier in the trilogy.

19) A Note With Each Gift Parachute

Book version: Gifts from sponsors come without notes, and Katniss is left to interpret what each one means.

Movie version: A note comes with each gift (though there are less gifts shown), making it easier to keep Haymitch’s thoughts in the narrative.

Level of Change: Minimal, though Katniss doesn’t seem as “thrown to the wolves” with a strong off-screen message coming in every so often.

Good or Bad Change: Understandable, and it helps provide clarity.

20) Rue and the Tracker Jackers

Book version: Rue points out the Tracker Jackers, but more as a warning to Katniss as to their proximity in the tree.

Movie version: Rue suggests Katniss drop the Tracker Jacker nest onto her enemies.

Level of Change: Moderate, as Katniss is pretty resourceful in the book, and figures this out on her own.

Good or Bad Change: Good, but only because it establishes Rue much more quickly, which the film desperately needs given her limited screen time.

21) Rue and the Trap

Book version: Rue is speared by a boy from District 1 while still in the net.

Movie version: Katniss frees Rue from the trap, but then a spear is thrown at her.

Level of Change: Minimal.

Good or Bad Change: Good, as it’s more dramatic visually.

22) District 11 and Open Revolt

Book version: Doesn’t exist.

Movie version: After Rue’s death, District 11 revolts against the peacekeepers.

Level of Change: Big, because we don’t ever see other districts in the book, this is the story of Katniss that only gradually becomes bigger as the series progresses.

Good or Bad Change: Bad, because they only did it to set up the sequels. The slow burn of the books is a superior storytelling method in this instance.

23) No Gift Bread from District 11

Book version: After Rue’s death, Katniss receives a gift from District 11.

Movie version: Doesn’t exist.

Level of Change: Big, because the gift gradually shows other districts coming around to Katniss’ heroism.

Good or Bad Change: Bad, for the same reason as the “open revolt” reasoning.

24) The Kisses Don’t Play as an Act

Book version: In the book Katniss believes the “romance” angle is an act to lure sponsors.

Movie version: It’s not entirely clear that Katniss thinks they are pretending, and Peeta definitely doesn’t.

Level of Change: Massive, as it sets up the ending better.

Good or Bad Change: Bad, because Katniss not understanding the dynamic between herself and Peeta provides all the tension of the story, whereas in the movie Peeta’s sadness at the end doesn’t come through as well.

25) Katniss Doesn’t Trick Peeta to Sleep

Book version: Katniss receives a sleeping potion from Haymitch, which she uses to drug Peeta so she can go get him medicine.

Movie version: Katniss doesn’t drug him, but she does wait until he’s asleep to head to The Cornucopia.

Level of Change: Minimal.

Good or Bad Change: Good, as it was clear Katniss was going to try to save Peeta regardless of his wishes.

26) No Goat Story or Recognition of Prim and Mom as Healers

Book version: While Peeta is trying to recover from his cut, Katniss tells him a story about how she attained a goat for her family. The goat was sick (which was the only reason it was for sale), and Prim and Katniss’ mom nursed it back to health.

Movie version: Doesn’t exist.

Level of Change: Moderate, because this story shows how out of her element Katniss is at healing.

Good or Bad Change: Understandable, given the time constraints of a 142-minute film.

27) Thresh’s Decision

Book version: Thresh lets Katniss live after figuring out that Katniss was kind to Rue.

Movie version: Thresh lets Katniss live because he knew Katniss was kind to Rue.

Level of Change: Minimal.

Good or Bad Change: Good, because it’s quicker and adds up to the same thing.

28) Katniss and the Drawn Arrow

Book version: When the gamemakers announce that only one tribute can live (again) Katniss thinks Peeta is trying to kill her so she draws an arrow across her bow.

Movie version: Doesn’t happen.

Level of Change: Big, because it shows the continuing divide and lack of trust of Peeta and Katniss.

Good or Bad Change: Bad, because the drawn bow makes Katniss a more complex character who clearly has huge trust issues.

29) The Release of the Hounds / Ghost Beasts

Book version: Beasts are released into the arena that have the eyes of dead tributes. They walk upright upon occasion.

Movie version: They are just dog-wolf-like hellhounds.

Level of Change: Moderate, as the eyes really freak Katniss out and make the arena even more ghoulish.

Good or Bad Change: Good, as this would have been just about impossible to pull off visually.

30) Cato’s Little Speech

Book version: Cato remains psychotic to until the end, but doesn’t give any grand speeches.

Movie version: Cato is at his wit’s end, and clearly indicates living and dying are about the same thing to him.

Level of Change: Big, as Cato is sympathetic in the movie version, but not the book version.

Good or Bad Change: Good, as it gives a more nuanced version of what other tributes are going through.

31) Peeta’s Realization

Book version: In the book Peeta realizes Katniss thinks they were “faking it” the entire time. He’s heartbroken.

Movie version: In the movie Peeta merely says “he doesn’t want to forget” and while upset, doesn’t seem to be completely dispirited.

Level of Change: Moderate, because fundamental differences exist between movie Katniss and book Katniss in terms of motivation. In the film she’s torn between two men, Peeta vs. Gale, but in the film she clearly falls for Peeta somewhat, where that’s less clear in the book (though she does question her feelings often). Book Katniss is more ruthless, where movie Katniss is more lovable.

Good or Bad Change: Somewhere in the middle. The book does a great job of showing a young woman caught up in a whirlwind of events much bigger then herself, where the film conforms to a more “hero” narrative style.

Overall, many of the choices the screenplay made made sense, but not all of them. The book comes off as more thematically complex, though the film does execute the story relatively well.

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Tags: Elizabeth banks, Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games

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