I have an obsessive personality. I have long ago come to terms with this, mostly by being grateful that I wasn’t cursed with an addictive personality as well. Addiction has no upside. My obsession, however, have been useful in the past–reading, historical research, writing. These days it’s the Hunger Games series. I may be blogging about it next week too and in the weeks to come as well.I never know when my obsessions will die out.
Anyway. . . I saw the movie before reading the books, in March of 2012. We went, my husband and I, because I wanted to see what all the hoopla was about. And because it was a too-rare date night and we needed something to do. I didn’t expect to like it by much. Mostly I expected to be disturbed. Which I was. We both were.
But I was also torn, as a hopeless romantic, between the two heroes of the movie, Gale and Peeta. I am almost always drawn more to Alpha heroes rather than Beta, but this time. . . well I was torn. In July of that year, when I was in the middle a terrible, terrible family drama and desperately in need of escape, I decided to give the book a try. Within 3 days I had read them all. Obsession started.
Since then I have read the books and watched the dvd’s more times than I will admit. More than I can count, actually, for lots reasons which would take several blog posts to explain. But for now, lets talk about the differences between the book and the movies.
The major difference that I can see–that bothers me–is the character of Peeta. Although I came out of the movie attached to the character, the Peeta character in the book draws the reader in so much more. He’s stronger, better motivated and more likeable. But there are other differences as well. Here are 9 from the to me.
1)In the book Peeta is well-spoken, charming and has friends. Lots of them. We don’t see all of this per-se because the book is written first person, from Katniss’s point of view. She does tell us however.
There’s not much evidence of this in the movie. One of my few criticisms of the movie is that they could have hinted at it very easily, by having Peeta’s friends pat him on the back, give his arm a squeeze, maybe even cry, when his name is chosen for the reaping. It wouldn’t have taken any extra time and would have done a lot to establish one of the differences between Katniss and Peeta.
2)The Mockingjay pin in the book is given to Katniss by her friend (who until this point she thinks of as an acquaintance) the mayor’s daughter. This whole thing is cut from the movies entirely. It’s understandable–there’s only so much you can fit into 120 minutes. But the character and the story behind her is worth reading the books for.
3)In the book’s back story, the day after Peeta throws Katniss the bread, she finds a dandelion. It’s early spring and up to this point she and her family have been starving. But when she sees the dandelion, she remembers her father teaching her to hunt and gather, and realizes that she can still do that. The next day she goes hunting for the first time and brings home a rabbit. She finally believes they will survive, and Peeta is forever associated with hope.
It would be too difficult for the movie to get this in. I understand the choice. But it deepens the attachment, and makes the books a better read (romance-wise).
4)More of the bread backstory: Peeta burnt the bread on purpose, so he could give it to Katniss. His really nasty mother hit him for it, giving him a nasty black eye. It’s a small sacrifice considering how horrible life was for these characters, but it does make Peeta more likeable, and a stronger hero. Yes, in the movie his mother does hit him, but I remember not totally understanding all of this when I saw the movie. My impression was he’d burned the bread, saw her, and then threw it near her. Not sure how they could have made what really happened clearer to those of us who’d not read the book first.
5)Katniss is very conflicted about how she feels about Peeta in the book from the beginning. There’s a scene early in the movie where Peeta tries to talk to Katniss on the train. “Have you ever met him? Haymitch?. . .You know Katniess he is our mentor. He did win this thing once. . .Look, you know if you don’t want to talk I understand, but I just don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting a little bit of help.” She doesn’t answer him, and they show us the bread scene. Certainly this conveys her confusion over him, but to me she comes across kind of bitchy.
6)In the book, on the train Hamitch gives the advice “Embrace the probability of your imminent death and know in your heart there’s nothing I can do to save you.” And later is giving advice to Peeta on “how to find shelter”. I love the scenes, I love the dialogue, and Woody Harleson as Haymitch is just fantastic. BUT in the book Haymitch’s first advice is “Stay alive,” after which he laughs. This infuriates Peeta–we rarely see his anger in the movie–and he lashes out, lunging at the very drunk Haymitch and knocking his glass to the floor. Haymitch responds by punching Peeta in the jaw. Haymitch then tries to go back to drinking, after which Katniss drives her knife into the table between his fingers (like we see in the movie).
Again, this is a stronger Peeta. Also, we see Peeta and Katniss working together, and it comes naturally to them, which shows the beginning of a bond.
This is one of the things I really believe they shouldn’t have left out of the movie. I don’t know how they could have fit it in, but other choices–showing Katniss bathing and getting ready for the reaping for example–I believe should have been cut if this scene could have been left in tact.
7) In the book Haymitch is impressed by Peeta and Katniss’s show of spirit and strength. He agrees to do what he doesn’t appear to have done in other years–work with them. He tells them that “You’ll be put in the hands of your stylists. You’re not going to like what they do to you. But no matter what it is, don’t resist.” I admit this didn’t make much of an impression the first few times I read the book. I’m not sure if that’s because I didn’t notice, or because I saw the movie first. But it became apparent to me, eventually, that this is the beginning of Haymitch scheming, something he does throughout the books. We don’t know what he says later to any of the characters outside of Katniss’s hearing, but you get the impression that he, Cinna and Portia (Peeta’s stylist, whom we don’t know much about in the movie) are working together.
8)The chariot scene. Two major differences, which are small but have a big impact on how you (or at least how I did) view the characters. a) In the movie Katniss says she’s not afraid of the fire and b)Peeta is the one who suggests they hold hands.
a) In the book both Peeta and Katniss are afraid of the fire. It goes like this:
“What do you think,” I whisper to Peeta. “About the fire?”
“I’ll rip off your cape if you’ll rip off mine,” he says through gritted teeth.
“Deal,” I say. Maybe, if we can get them off soon enough, we’ll avoid the worst burns. It’s bad though. They’ll throw us into the arena no matter what condition we’re in.
A little later: “Where is Hayitch, anyway. Isn’t he supposed to protect us from this sort of thing?” says Peeta.
“With all the alcohol in him, it’s probably not advisable to have him around an open flame,” I say.
That leads them into laughter, which bonds them. Honestly, shared humor is one of the most bonding things two people can have between them.
b) In the book, Cinna tells them to hold hands. I admit, I like it that it’s Peeta’s idea in the movie–it shows us that he can play the crowd. That’s a very important part of his character. Still. . .Cinna suggesting it, shows us that the whole “romance angle” is already in development. And it continues on in the book. Much to Katniss’s distress, they are being presented as a team both there and in training. Katniss doesn’t want to be a team; she doesn’t want to become attached to Peeta if she’s only going to have to kill him later.
So that covers something like the first 1/3 of the movie. Next Friday I’ll add more, but for now–what do you think? Did you read the books and see the movies? What parts of the adaption did you think they did well? What could they have done better?