SPOILERS: It’s always said that it’s better to read the book before you go and watch the film and The Hunger Games was no exception. Unfortunately, I did this the wrong way round but was thoroughly impressed with director Gary Ross’ interpretation of Suzanne Collins’ novel apart from it ruined the plot while reading it! The Hunger Games follows Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen year old struggling to keep her family alive in a futuristic world of Panem. Panem is made up of twelve districts of which Katniss lives in one of the poorest, District 12. Every year boys and girls aged 12-18 enter their names for the annual Hunger Games hosted by the rich and prosperous Capitol. The Games means that 24 tributes must fight to the death until there is one winner to bring honour and glory to their district.
In the novel the reader can instantly understand Katniss and the world she lives in. As Katniss describes Panem you can also see that Collins has some underlying political points and tackles the idea of poverty and tyranny. The poorer districts are starving and have to work hard to survive, catching game behind the backs of the Peacekeepers and selling it on. These underlying points make the book seem realistic and familiar. Ross translated this theme well to screen showing the desperation in District 12 and the contrast with the Capitol with their ridiculous bright colours and luxuries.
Katniss as a character is strong, relatable and passionate which is transformed to screen in the form of actress Jennifer Lawrence who gives a powerful performance. While reading the book it’s easy to get caught up in Katniss’ emotions. As a reader I felt the tension when her sister Prim’s name was picked at the reaping and her desperation as she volunteered herself. During her interview for the Games I even found myself holding my breath as she walked out onto the stage, struggling to be herself in front of the interviewer. It’s everything you want in a book, to relate to the characters and get lost in it. Even the in the film, actress Jennifer Lawrence invests a lot into the character Katniss and it is hard not to root for her and support her in the brutal Games.
As the Hunger Games forces the districts to send a boy and a girl to Capitol, Katniss’ partner comes in the form of the baker’s son Peeta Mellark. Strong in stature but a romantic at heart, Peeta strives to protect Katniss in the Games by confessing his love for her, though Katniss tries her best to keep up the star-crossed lovers facade, she finds herself struggling with her feelings for Peeta due to the fact that she also may have feelings for her friend Gale at home. This is one thing that I feel Collins could have done better in her novels but Ross achieved in the films. Here it can be apt to compare Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series to The Hunger Games but this is where the comparisons will stop because they’re written in completely different ways with different literary techniques that are in Collins’ favour. However, Meyer successfully achieved the tension between Bella’s two love interests Edward and Jacob whereas in The Hunger Games novel I didn’t care much for Peeta or Gale, the latter especially. Perhaps it’s because the main focus is on the games but to me Gale only ever seemed like a friend to Katniss. His mysterious presence in the first part of the novel only ever comes across as a comrade and protector of Katniss and her family rather than a romantic interest. Yes, Katniss does mention several times how she misses Gale but it never seems truly convincing. Her relationship with Peeta is contrived in order to get sponsors when they’re in the arena but Katniss just seems completely oblivious to his feelings for her and every kiss they share is forced and unemotional. In fact, when Katniss describes her kisses with Peeta they’re never intimate or passionate but childish. It doesn’t make me root for either Peeta or Gale as a viable partner for Katniss. However, in the film as Ross cuts back and forth to scenes in District 12 with Gale’s reactions to Peeta and Katniss’ unfolding relationship on screen and his urgency to see Katniss before she leaves the district, it’s a lot more of a believable passion than in the books.
These relationships may be further explored in the sequels of The Hunger Games; Catching Fire and Mockingjay and I look forward to reading these. If you like the idea of a dystopian adventure novel with a hint of romance then you’ll enjoy the The Hunger Games. The movie sequel Catching Fire has been said by Lionsgate to be released November 2013.