I really liked the Hunger Games book, but it’ll need some tweaks to become a movie. Here’s what I think Hollywood will do.
I read The Hunger Games a little over a year ago. With the movie coming out this weekend, I figured it might just be time to actually write about it.
To properly set the stage, I thought the first Hunger Games book was riveting. Like, to the point where I didn’t tell anyone I was reading it because I was afraid of hearing even one word of a spoiler.
I haven’t spoiled the movie yet, either — haven’t read any reviews, haven’t watched any clips beyond those in the trailer — so this list comes from a place of innocent speculation. The Hunger Games book is a first-person look into Katniss’s head. The movie, unless it decides to use massive amounts of voiceover, won’t be. So there will be differences. And I wanted to speculate on what those differences are. Thus, my 11 wild predictions for the Hunger Games movie.
Word of caution: SPOILERS will abound. I’ve written this list for someone who read the book. And there are also a few nods toward the other two books in the series, although not as blatantly.
1 | I predict the Gale/Katniss romantic angle will get more play
The first book really downplays any romance between Gale and Katniss when they’re together at the beginning. In the post-Twilight movie world, I don’t know if that will work. I (lamentably) think the love triangle angle is going to get a harder push in the movies than the book, and I think that will start from the beginning with Gale and Katniss in the woods.
A few years back, for this site, I wandered over to the New Moon premiere. Girls were wailing about the two male stars. Wailing girls aren’t going to be showing up to the Catching Fire premiere with “Team Gale” and “Team Peeta” shirts next year if Gale’s an afterthought. Plus the actor who plays Gale was dating Miley Cyrus. He’s arguably the best shot this franchise has at TMZ-friendly romantic dalliances. If he isn’t giving it to Selena Gomez or Taylor Momsen by the time the next film comes out I’ll eat my hat.
2 | I predict the movie won’t be quite as obsessed with food as the book
I say this only because Suzanne Collins was clearly on a crash diet when she was writing. I know the book uses food and hunger as a symbol — even Rosebud and the ancient mariner’s albatross think she lays that on thick — but the way Collins goes intricately deep in her descriptions of every bite of food Katniss takes for 300 pages transcends mere literary technique. Suzanne Collins really wanted some hot chocolate and dinner rolls.
I’m sure the movie will have the requisite scene where Katniss crudely gobbles down her first taste of Capitol food on the train while Effie looks on in horror — but I don’t think we’ll get the deep, deep focus on the nuances of different districts’ breads or Katniss recounting every meal she’s eaten since her father died. The food will lose some of its power in the movie. Unless the director was also doing the Cabbage Soup Diet or Atkins during filming.
3 | I predict they’ll hit us over the head with the mockingjay pin
During my initial read, I basically forgot about the mockingjay pin. It gets a few mentions but not the full spotlight. It’s going to get that full spotlight in the movie where there’s less room for subtlety. Also… from the little bit of the trailer I saw, it seems like Katniss gets the pin from Prim, not Madge. It’s always the third-tier characters who get the ax, huh? It’s exactly what’s going to happen to Steve Berthiaume and Wendy Nix if that ESPN oral history book ever gets turned into a movie.
4 | I predict Jennifer Lawrence will be excellent because she’s inadvertently just like Katniss
For about a year’s worth of interviews, Jennifer Lawrence discussed how she reluctantly took the role of Katniss because she didn’t know if she wanted to go so mainstream. (Apparently she wanted to keep doing small indie films, ya know, like X Men: First Class.)
At first those read as obnoxious to me. Then it clicked. Whether she realizes it or not, she actually IS Katniss. She’s planning to handle her fame the way Katniss does after the first Games — inwardly cocky about her newfound power and influence but pouting all the way. And because of that, I think she’s right for Katniss. Even if she is too old, her hair’s the wrong color and she doesn’t appear to be severely malnourished.
5 | I predict Haymitch will give more signs of intelligence than in the book
In the first book, there are very few signs that Haymitch is anything more than a drunk with occasional flashes of grizzled wisdom. That turns out to be drastically underselling him as the series continues. I sometimes wonder if Collins never intended to make him such a key player early on in her writing, but kinda came around on it when she found he was working as a character and as a liaison to Katniss and Peeta.
With Woody Harrelson playing the role and the full trilogy already fleshed out, I don’t think we’re going to see a Haymitch who’s 67 percent comic relief, 33 percent mentor and guide. I think it will be 50-50, if not 45-55 leaning toward the mentor side. More Billy Hoyle than Woody Boyd. He’s not going to Munson this role.
6 | I predict I’ll finally figure out the Peeta casting decision
I was surprised at the actor they picked for Peeta. I just assumed the people making this film would try to replicate the Twilight Pattinson/Lautner thing. Or Richard Gere and Bill Pullman (not Paxton) with Julia Roberts in Love is Nice.
But they didn’t. They didn’t pick a bodybuilder or a guy who has abs like Hank Azaria in Along Came Polly. (I will never, ever, ever get over Hank Azaria in Along Came Polly.) They picked a guy who’s shorter than Jennifer Lawrence. Who actually looks like a real person and not a model trying to play a real person.
Assuming they could’ve had any 17- to 25-year-old actor in the universe for this role, I’m fascinated to see what Josh Hutcherson did to land it. And I have a feeling we’ll understand very early on.
7 | I predict we’ll see characters watching the Games on TV
Because of the first-person style of the books, we never see people watching the Hunger Games. We get Katniss’s internal commentary (for example, talking about how they’ll interview her family, or how people in the Capitol must be reacting to what’s onscreen) but we don’t see it. We don’t see the Capitol controlling the Games. We only see what Katniss sees.
Since the movie will be in third-person — as non-Blair Witch Project movies are — I think we’ll get to see how the broadcast of the Games actually works. At least I hope so. I liked those parts of movies like The Truman Show and EdTV and I think it will help build this universe through showing, not telling. Also, this may finally explain how the Capitol gets a camera into the tiny little cave where Peeta and Katniss hide out for like a week. I never quite understood the mechanics of that.
8 | I predict the mutts will be a visual letdown
For what it’s worth, my least favorite made-up Collins word is “muttations.” It bugs me more than when J.K. Rowling has her magical characters say “Accio” and then insert any object after it and the object flies to them.
I do not have high expectations. They’re going to try to make them look like the other tributes and try to get the eyes right… and I just don’t think they’re going to achieve the right balance. Whether they look too much like wolf-people or too much like people-wolves, the CGI mutts have uncanny valley written all over them.
9 | I predict the graphic child deaths will not set off a debate on PG-13 like people are expecting
When I first finished reading The Hunger Games, I thought, “This book is the perfect example of American PG-13 standards.” There’s no nudity. No one’s dropping swear words. But children are getting brutally slaughtered in horrifically violent ways. For whatever reason, that’s what our society settled on as PG-13. As Sheila Broflovski says in a heavy-handed but spot-on way at the climax of South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, “Remember what the MPAA says: Horrific, deplorable violence is OK, as long as people don’t say any naughty words.” So I figured that when the book became a movie, the PG-13 rating was a given.
And, yes, the movie got its PG-13. And, yes, from a few buzzings I haven’t been able to avoid hearing, it does feature plenty of brutal child deaths. People are gearing up for OUTRAGE over this. I am not.
Sure, the parents who irresponsibly take their seven-year-olds without pre-screening the movie’s content will be furious. But I’d be shocked if this movie’s violence causes a referendum anywhere close to the one sparked by Janet Jackson’s nipple. M.I.A.’s middle finger during this year’s Super Bowl might even get a bigger uproar than children being violently slaughtered. We’ve made our PG-13 bed, people, now it’s time to sleep in it.
10 | I predict the movie will end differently than the book
This is my most ambitious prediction. But I don’t think the ending of the book will work as the ending of the movie. Peeta and Katniss angrily going their separate ways? That’s not the hook that’s going to get a $100 million opening for Catching Fire in November 2013.
Nope. I’m wildly speculating that this movie is going to end with Katniss and Gale’s kiss. Because I don’t think it will work right happening in the first few minutes of the next movie. To properly set up the next movie, I think it has to happen here. So I’m going out on this limb that will probably be wrong. But if I’m right, I expect to receive several firm handshakes from strangers on the way out of the theater.
11 | I predict this movie will be the only one of the series that’s not as good as the book
As I said in the prologue, I was a huge fan of The Hunger Games. I liked Catching Fire. I had to force myself to get through Mockingjay. And I’m going to put on an old-fashioned hat for a moment and say that no movie adaptation can equal or surpass a great book. That’s what I’m anticipating this weekend.
However… I think the rest of the movies will outshine the books. This absolutely happened for me with the Harry Potter series. The Harry Potters I liked the best (1, 2 and especially 4) were my least favorite movies. The books I liked the least (3, 5 and especially 7) played out far, far better for me in movie form. (I was fairly ambivalent toward book six, so neither one wowed me. Also, this paragraph is my argument for why even after J.K. Rowling became super-powerful they should’ve kept forcing her to work with an editor.)
There are two general threads in virtually all the books I didn’t like (in both series). One, I hate when the lead characters spend the entire books whining. And two, I hate when the authors spend hundreds of pages with the characters aimlessly meandering around without clearly driving toward any kind of plot. Movies don’t have time for either of those flaws, and it makes them so, so much better. So while I don’t think The Hunger Games will compare to its book, I think Catching Fire and Mockingjay will easily surpass theirs.