Most of you know by now that I am huge fan of post-apocalyptic / dystopian fiction. Since my own attempt at this genre, Earthburst, will be released after Easter, I'm hyper aware of this market, and nothing is bigger right now than Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games series. This being the case, I thought I'd offer my insight into the film.
All of us who are authors would consider it a crowning achievement to have one of our books made into a movie, and I figure that I would probably allow my work to be radically compromised if such an offer were made. Everyone has a price, right? After watching The Hunger Games movie today, I asked myself, if I were Suzanne Collins would I be happy with the film's interpretation of my work? Unfortunately, I don't think so.
Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the film, and it got a lot of things right. For instance, despite my reservations about her being too old for the part, Jennifer Lawrence made a wonderful Katniss. Her trembling in fear while receiving final instructions from Cinna before she entered the arena rang true to life. Well acted, but not overdone. In fact, all of the actors did a fine job. Kudos to
the film's treatment of the reaping scene. I felt as if I were there. I'm glad there was no melodramatic background music, just the quiet camera panning over fearful faces of children and their families as the tribute names were drawn. They did, however, cut Haymitch from the scene. I would like to have seen him falling off that stage.
What bothered me about the film? Simply put, it lacked soul. In the book, we experience life through the eyes of 16-year-old Katniss and her daily struggle to live in a miserable post-apocalyptic world. We identify and root for Katniss because her father dies in a mining accident and her mother suffers a mental breakdown. This leaves Katniss no choice but to become the sole provider for her mother and kid sister. She learns to hunt, learns to barter, gains self-confidence, and hones her survival skills. This gives the reader some hope that she could possibly survive the games. Film goers who did not read the book are clueless and left wondering, why her? All of this vital back story is missing from the film or dealt with in a series of flashbacks that represent nothing more than sketchy afterthoughts.
The film blows it as far as developing Katniss as a character which is too bad, because therein lies the essence of Suzanne Collins's work, the magic that makes The Hunger Games the masterpiece that it is. Also barely there in the film is the relationship triangle between Katniss, Gale, and Peeta. And shame on the filmmakers for failing to show us the depth of betrayal Katniss feels when Peeta ostensibly forms an alliance against her with the career tributes.
To be fair, that's a lot to squeeze into a conventional film, but we've all seen other novels made into movies that work well. The filmmakers could have tried harder. I'm afraid that too many non-readers will not understand what makes The Hunger Games so remarkable.
So, when Hollywood comes calling at my door to make Earthburst into a movie, I'll welcome them, but I'll also be wary.