Before I get into spoilers I’d have to say my overall feelings on the first “Hunger Games” movie is that I was underwhelmed. The books were so full and rich and the movie felt fairly empty. It was about 2.5 hours, so I understand that they can’t make a 7 hour long movie and that you lose some content when you switch from 1st person to 3rd person.
However, I feel like everything they left out created a greater emphasis on the romance than the revolution. All the things I really miss, plot wise, are things that lead to a more complete picture of the desperation in the Districts and of the situation everyone involved is in.
I debated making this list of things I really noticed were wrong, because it seems nit-picky, but like I said, the details create a rich picture you are missing without them.
There are absolutely going to be spoilers beyond this point- if you don’t want to read them you can scroll until you see the “no more spoilers” graphic.
These are sort of in order, but not really.
– We didn’t get a very full picture of just how poor District 12 is, or the relationship Katniss & Gale have to their District, specifically how big a role they play in the Hob, and how they know what special things certain people like (the mayor and his fruit, for example.)
– This leads to the fact that Katniss found the pin at the Hob and was not given it by the mayor’s daughter, Madge.
-I also didn’t like that Cinna put the mockingjay pin on her like it had to be a secret. The tributes were allowed to have a token, that was hers and it was visible, not hidden.
– There is no mention of the tesserae- a program where citizens can trade having their name entered an extra time in the drawing to be a tribute in exchange for a years worth of grain and oil for their family. This is why Katniss and Gale have their names in there so many times. They mention that Gale has his name in 42 times, but not why. One or two more lines of dialogue could have explained that and furthered the audience’s understanding of the situation in the Districts.
– They don’t mention that Katniss’s mother is a healer. Again, one line of dialogue while Katniss tends to Peeta’s wounds or sickness would have cleared this up.
– Haymitch isn’t drunk and grumpy enough. Also, those little notes in the parachutes? The Capitol would see those and be on to their game even faster.
-Those cuts to Gale when Katniss & Peeta kiss? UGH, gross. I don’t think it’s important we think about Gale at this juncture, because Katniss isn’t and it’s not because she’s cruel, it’s because she’s concerned with survival not romance.
– Rue get no backstory! This makes me very unhappy. Her climbing/ tree hopping skills are because of her work in the fruit trees, so is her song with the mockingjays. Rue says something like “we used to sing this song in my district” to explain it, why couldn’t she just have said “we sang this song to signal the end of the work day in my district.” BAM! Backstory! BAM! A fuller and richer picture of the character and her district.
– When Katniss and Rue are in the trees with the other tributes below them Rue is supposed to point out the trackerjacker nest to warn Katniss and I’m pretty sure Katniss decides to drop it on her own and warns Rue of that. A trade that creates a trust between them.
– Rue and Katniss scheme to destroy the food the Careers have stockpiled because they don’t know how to survive without it. They don’t include this information and I suppose it is implied but I think it could have been more clear.
-Katniss whistles the mockingjay song in the movie, while in the book she sings. Her father sang and when he did the mockingjays would stop and sing his song, and her voice gets the same reaction.
-The hanging tree song is very important to the book, and they almost entirely cut it out- they definitely cut out the parts that matter.
-The Riot in 11 doesn’t start until Katniss and Peeta are on tour in the districts. They send her bread though, as a thank you. So when she is there and thanks them for the bread that is when they riot, and she sees the man killed and it is a profound moment for her.
– Snow said some things to Seneca that I’m pretty sure he is supposed to have said to Katniss later. This seems to me to be an erasure of Katniss’s role in the revolution.
– I didn’t hate the way they chose to kill Seneca, it was a very poetic moment that conveyed the cruelty of snow and exactly why he was being killed. See, I don’t hate everything they changed!
-Hover crafts never came to take the dead tributes!
-They allude to the fact that the capitol cuts out peoples tongues but otherwise never mention the avoxes. They are there but for all the audience knows they have tongues and are just servants. This harsh brand of punishment is terrifying for Katniss, especially with the girl she recognizes.
-They don’t quite give the Capitol the “Big Brother” feeling it had in the book. Katniss and Peeta speak freely in front of that window instead of sneaking to the roof. there is no feeling that you really need to watch what you say at all times.
– The relationship between Peeta and Katniss isn’t as complicated as in the book.
– I don’t remember Cato saying all those things on the Cornucopia in the end, but I could be wrong. I know he definitely said if she shot him Peeta would go down too and that he begged for the mutt attack to be over when they got him.
– There is some unclearness about whether or not the mutts were really the dead tributes mutated or if The Capitol just used their eyes or made their eyes look like the tributes, or if it was just something Katniss imagined. This was left out of the movie. Again, one line on the cornucopia, “Peeta, their eyes, the other tributes.” It doesn’t even have to be a complete sentence or thought.
– Speaking of that end part… Isn’t Peeta supposed to lose a leg (hint: yes, he is.) He’s supposed to lose a leg and they are sucked back up by the hover craft after waiting and not knowing why they haven’t won yet (before they are told only one can win and get out the nightlock) and separated and it is a very traumatic event because Katniss doesn’t know if it’s because he’s dying or they’re being punished, or what.
There were some other things they changed or forgot that don’t seem as important to me (like how Cinna comes off kind of creepy in the movie and it’s supposed to be his idea that Katniss spin in the dress.)
Overall, like I mentioned before, I think they really erased a lot of the politics of the story. I have some theories about this that either sound very conspiracy theoryish or make a lot of sense, or both. It’s obviously about money and controlling the message, but I think erasing the revolution and distracting the audience with romance makes it seem like we’re seeing the story from the Capitol’s point of view, not Katniss’s.
I’d also like to say that I understand that this is a young adult (YA) series. But I think that the way YA novels can be full, rich stories that even adults can read and enjoy does not always translate to a movie that does the same (but this is a marketing thing, they could choose to market to a wider group than YA). For example a 13 year old may read the series and what sticks out to them is the romantic relationships and an adult may read it and what sticks out is the political aspect. With a movie you can pick one or the other, or both, but I feel like the focus was the romance.
I didn’t really touch on race here because I have a few links to articles that said everything I could have wanted to say much better than I would have.
Racist Hunger Games Fans are Very Disappointed– I am disgusted at the racism that has abounded from “fans” that were surprised Rue and Thresh are black. I’m unfortunately not surprised by how racist people are, but I am always disgusted by it.
A Character by Character Guide to Race in The Hunger Games– A great character by character guide with descriptions in the books versus appearance in the film.
Why Katniss Everdeen is a Woman of Color (and why it is important)- A really great one about why Katniss is not only a woman of color but why it is important to the story. If you take the stance of “race doesn’t matter” you need to read this, because it does.
The Sexual Politics of The Hunger Games– This is the article I send to people who either compare The Hunger Games to Twilight, or get annoyed about the comparisons. There are similarities, and that is okay, they are definitely not the same. Read this.
Capitol Control: The Irony of The Hunger Games Movie Mania– This is along the same theme of The Capitol having made the movie. An interesting read for sure.