March 24, 2012

May the odds be ever in your favour: How ‘The Hunger Games’ compares from book to film

How would you describe the perfect film adaptation?

For me, it is a film that respects the integrity of the original novel. Deviations from the plot are fine, as long as they enhance the story in its new medium. It is true to the novel, but not a slave to it – adaptation, not reproduction.

With this definition in mind, the film The Hunger Games comes fairly close to perfection. As stated by the author of the original trilogy, Suzanne Collins, the “book and the film are individual yet complementary pieces that enhance one another.”

The novel was a breath of fresh air. It took me two nights to read, and I wished that I didn’t have a day job so that I could finish it sooner. The story was fast-paced and riveting, the characters were intriguing, and the hint of a love triangle had my romantic side swooning.

Gary Ross did a splendid job in bringing the story the big screen. As the film played out, I was in awe at how so many of the scenes seemed to have been directly pulled from the page, and from my memory. As much as I don’t mind the odd creative difference, it’s such a relief when a filmmaker’s vision matches your own imagination.

Jennifer Lawrence perfected the character of Katniss Everdeen. She is strong and willful, and of course beautiful – but thankfully she shows none of the self-loathing and often plagues the inner monologue of her literary equivalent.

Liam Hemsworth is so hunky that you instantly forget Suzanne Collins’ description of Gale’s straight black hair and olive skin. Josh Hutcherson’s performance is also admirable, but like in Katniss’ heart, he is no match.

The true standout performances of the film come in glimmers, as expected, from the legendary Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz. Again, they are not the actors that you would picture when reading Collins’ words, but they make the characters splendidly their own.

Once you have jumped on the bandwagon, it’s very hard to jump off again – so I find it very difficult to fault this film. By opening up the story beyond Katniss’ point of view, the film avoids all of the constraints of first-person narrative; the vivacity, colour and sparkle of the Capitol is a visual feast; and the rocky hand-held camera work gives the film an edgy, documentary-like feel.

So, clearly, I’m a fan. I also took my boyfriend to see the film with me – he’s a non-reader, who approached the film without very little expectation, except for the fear that I was dragging him along to another Twilight.

Except for the mutant dogs that could “magically appear” in the landscape – which were “a bit stupid” – and his lamentations that the game maker’s shouldn’t have aimed directly for Katniss with the fireballs, he was also suitably impressed.

Coming from a fan of action flicks, I thought it was a high compliment that he could enjoy the censored fight scenes, the suspense, and the girl-power message.

A must-see movie, and – dare I say it in March – the film adaptation of the year!

The verdict:
Book or Big Screen? Big Screen
The film is:  5. An exceptional improvement on the original

I would be very happy to receive your comments and feedback on ‘Book or Big Screen’ – please click on the below link to tell me what film adaptation you are excited about, or to suggest the book/film that I should review next.

What’s coming next? A review of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen


  1. Will definitely see this one on DVD - I just don't see myself going out to the theater to see it when I'd likely enjoy something else better. Still, I am thrilled to hear that you liked it, Danielle!

  2. This makes me really excited for the film. I literally finished reading the first book a few weeks ago so it is fresh in my mind. I'm glad to have come across a blog with book-to-film reviews! However, do you find that there are a lot of similarities to this story with Twilight?

  3. Hi Melissa, thanks for stopping by. Yes, reading the book I definitely saw some similarities with The Twilight Saga... mostly with the love triangle, and with Katniss' low self-esteem... But the film takes away these similarities - Katniss is much stronger, and it really does kick butt!

  4. Your opening definition is spot-on and definitely what I had in mine when watching the film and writing my review post!

  5. I would definitely agree that the film adaptation was nearly spot on. The movie was truly amazing. I even went twice with different sets of friends. It amuses me though how this series has the Team Peeta and Team Gale thing going on just like "Twilight." What matters is who she picks and why, not our personal favorite. Although if I had a camp I would be in the opposite one. ;)

    I'm keeping my fingers crossed that with the next two films they keep this same director and screen writer. I literally had no complaints and I don't want them switching people in charge halfway through!