David and I finally went and saw The Hunger Games: Catching Fire this week. I have been waiting with anticipation, but was not in the mood to see it with a bunch of teenagers and things have been pretty crazy for us. So we went and saw it yesterday and the movie does not disappoint. I am here to look at how the book compares to the movie and the similarities and differences between the two. This is another area that does not disappoint.
I love The Hunger Games Trilogy when I first read the books I did over one week, and I read the books again recently and did it in about the same amount of time. The first book is good, but it is a general introduction to the world and Katniss. By the second book we are invested in these characters and want to see them well off. So as things just keep going bad it can be difficult to watch them go through all of these events, so you have to keep turning the page. The movie does the same thing it draws you in willing you forward along with the characters that you have been introduced to. Following along through every high and every low, in which there are so many. (Spoilers for Catching Fire after the jump.)
Matching Story Arc
The overarching story of the movie matches perfectly with the book. We start out in District 12 before the Victor Tour of all the other districts. In the book they spend a bit more time building up to the tour, but the movie does a great job of showing us all the important things without needing to spend more time telling the story. They did a great job of showing us the trauma that Katniss is going through, what life is like now that she is a victor. The emotions that we get to hear from Katniss in the book are portrayed beautifully by Jennifer Lawrence. The desire to survive to cling on to the time before she went in to the Hunger Games. All this is shattered of course once President Snow pays Katniss a little visit. This is when she finds out just how much trouble she is in and what she needs to do to keep everyone she cares about safe, or so she thinks.
We move along in to the Victor Tour and the movie moves us through that at a good pace and at the same time shows what is happening in the districts and the act that Peeta and Katniss have to put on. They obviously had to cut quite a few things, but it does not feel like it because they include enough to get the point across. The important moment that they did include was when they were in District 11. Peeta gives up his winnings, Katniss calls Rue a friend, a man does the salute of District 12 and whistles Rue’s tune, then all hell breaks loose. Thus, the moment where Haymitch, Peeta, and Katniss end up int he attic of the Justice Building of District 11 discussing how they can make this better because President Snow is watching. They then do a montage going through the other districts, which highlights the fact that Peeta and Katniss are trying to play nice. Then ending in the Capital where the decadence is almost too much to bear.
At the end of the tour of course we get the shake of the head from the President to tell Katniss that they failed. This is where the feeling shifts because Katniss wants to try and get away because she knows that the punishment is coming. Before they can get away though Gale ends up whipped by the new Head Peacemaker and then the announcement for the Hunger Games Third Quarter Quell is announced and it breaks our hearts. The lead up to the actual 75th Hunger Games is played out perfectly, as well as the games. There are a few moments that we are missing, but they are not important to the overall story. We see the interviews and then the teaming up works perfectly in the actual games. Then the ending is exactly what happens in the book. Katniss gets lifted out, is mad as hell when she finds Haymitch on the hovercraft and that Peeta is not then. She gets drugged and then gets woken up to find out that her home, District 12, has been destroyed. Leaving the movie on the same note as the book, which was really a perfect place to end that story.
Absences Versus Subtle Differences
For the most part the differences that seem to happen between the book and the movie happen due to absences or subtle differences. There are quite a few absences, but it makes perfect sense with the time frame for doing a movie, as well as the fact that in a movie you can show something instead of having to tell them. There are facial expressions, hand motions, a glimpse of an image that can speak volumes in under thirty seconds that can take pages to describe. All the actors do an amazing job with these subtleties. There is no item where I felt that not having that scene was overly significant. They made subtle changes other places to make up for any of the absences.
One example is that by not including Madge as the Mayor’s daughter they did not have a location for Katniss to see the riots happening in the other districts. So instead she saw it in a room that she was not supposed to see in to on the train. Another example is that they did not discuss the talents that the Victors are supposed to display for the Capital. So we did not get in to the fact that Cinna was designing a line of clothing for Katniss to pull off as her own or the fact that Peeta is an amazing artist. This is an example of an absence that adds color in the book, but would just take up time in the movie.
There were a couple of bigger differences that they did in the movie, but it kept the story moving forward and did not change the overall story. One of the larger differences is showing the reason that Gale ends up being whipped in the center of town. In the book it is because he tries to sell some game to the Head Peacemaker, but he dos not know that there is a new Head Peacemaker in town. In the movie he tries to protect people as they are being kicked out of the Hobb or the black market area of District 12. He assaults the new Head Peacemaker and ends up in the stocks basically. The important part of this scene is that Katniss stands in the way of the punishment, which then leads Haymitch and Peeta to stand with her. Again, even though they made the difference they kept the story intact.
Scene They Took Out and Scene They Took
Catching Fire is a perfect example of how to pull off turning a book in to a movie. They included everything that was necessary and still took it directly from the book, but cut out the unnecessary elements. So I am going to briefly talk about one scene I wish was in the movie, and the one scene I really wanted them to keep. First, is the one that I understand why they left it out, but kind of wish had been left in.
So they took out the talents, which means we do not get to hear about Peeta’s painting. One of the scenes in the book that really struck me is when Katniss and Peeta are on the train for the Victor Tour and they walk through the car with Peeta’s paintings. They are all paintings from the games, it is his way of coping with his pain. It is a beautiful and haunting moment to see how heavily the games weighs on Peeta. Katniss does not know how he can stand to paint it, but the problem is that they are both stuck in the arena. It is a great bonding moment between the two of them and showing that they are existing in the same space.
The scene that I am so happy they kept, even though it was small and subtle is Mags. It is really a hard scene to have screwed up, but I was not sure. The scene in the book is so emotional and there is always a worry that they will not make it as good, but they pulled it off. When Katniss, Peeta, and Finnick are running away from the fog and Mags ends up walking in to the fog. Now I do like the reason that they gave in the book a little bit better, but it still turns out amazing. In the book Peeta is more hurt than he is in the movie, so it gets to a point where Finnick has to carry Peeta and Katniss is carrying Mags. Then Katniss’ arms go so numb that she cannot carry Mags anymore. Finnick looks at Mags and says “No […] I can’t carry them both. My arms aren’t working. […] I’m sorry, Mags. I can’t do it.” Then Mags gives Finnick a kiss a calmly walks in to the fog. It is such a beautiful moment of sacrifice and friendship. It is just such a beautiful moment overall.
In general they captured the spirit of the book in these movies. They captured the pain and suffering of the people as well as the overindulgence of the Capital. One of the great additions to the movies is seeing from the perspective of the President and the Head Gamemaker. In the movies we do not guess at the motives behind the actions of the Capital we get to see them being played out. It is a rare movie that can add to the experience of the book and Catching Fire definitely accomplishes that.