The Hunger Games: Creative Liberties & Movie Choices

I discovered The Hunger Games trying to find a gift for my brother. The Harry Potter series had recently ended, and he needed something new to read. He’s a picky reader, but when he finds something he likes, he devours it. So I love to try to meet that challenge.

Trying to find recommendations for books similar to Harry Potter, The Hunger Games popped up again and again. Bingo. It sat in my house for a few weeks before I gave it to him. I flipped through it a little to make sure he’d like it. I liked it. I loved it.

I immediately put it on my library hold list, and when I tore through it in a week, I went out at 9 p.m. at night, in the middle of a Nebraska snowstorm, to get the next one. I bought the second and third books that night, because I knew I would not be satisfied until I had read the full story, and because, no matter how much my husband loves me, there was no way he was driving me out in a snowstorm to buy a book again.

I whipped through Catching Fire and Mockingjay too. Then a few months later I read them again. I love them. I love Katniss. I love Peeta. I love the world Suzanne Collins created around them.

Did I love the movie?

I liked it. I liked it very, very much.

When I first heard they were making a Hunger Games movie, I was ecstatic. And then … I was apprehensive. What if they did it wrong? What if I didn’t like it?

The problem with turning a book into a movie (as a whole generation learned from the Harry Potters) is that difficult choices must be made.

A first-person, character-driven narrative like The Hunger Games is especially difficult, because so much happens inside Katniss’ head that you just can’t show in a movie. How do you get around that and stay true to the story? Creative choices have to be made.

The creativity and talent of adapting a screenplay is underappreciated. It involves a lot of creative problem solving–and every choice risks the fury of the book’s fans.

And because of the screenwriter’s choices, the Hunger Games movie had some really fun moments in it that I didn’t expect. Like the opportunity to see the game planning from the Capitol’s side, especially the huge NASA style control room. Hearing the commands, seeing what they were plotting, and then getting thrust back into the arena to wait for it to happen was a fantastic suspense builder.

I did not love every choice made. (If you want a good assessment of those choices, check out io9’s “Everything The Hunger Games Movie Left Out.”

It’s easy, in  culture like ours where the fanbase around a book series can be so die-hard, to believe that a movie version is not just one artistic take, but THE movie, the end-all, the authority. I htink that’s why we get so offended when the creative choices made don’t jive with our own.

But it’s a precarious position to be in, to be responsible for how someone else’s precious brainchild is going to be portrayed to the world. No matter what you do, someone is bound to have interpreted something differently. There’s always many ways to interpret a story.

That’s the beauty of books, or any art.

There is never one authoritative interpretation. It’s one creative take on the material.

So I’m trying to approach movie versions of books differently these days. I’m trying to stop looking at them in such black and white terms. There is no right or wrong when it comes to interpretations. There’s only different perspectives. (Well okay, casting Harry Potter as a super upbeat blond American would have been wrong. But the point stands.)

So instead of judging these interpretations as right or wrong, I’m approaching them as a conversation starter. There’s nothing I love more than to talk about books or movies.

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3 thoughts on “The Hunger Games: Creative Liberties & Movie Choices

  1. I’m with you – I LOVED the books but LIKED the movie. But I find this is true with most books turned into movies. Usually I find myself to be disappointed with how they turned out. The Hunger Games was different. I was pleasantly surprised. Could it have been better? Yes. But, I anticipate that as the next two books are made into movies, they will get better. At least one can hope, right? 🙂

    • Right! I agree, the movies are often subpar to the books they come from. But sometimes they become different enough fomr the book that they take on a life of their own and become special in their own way …the later Harry Potter movies were like that for me.

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