As many of you know, this past weekend was the biggest November box office opening ever and it was for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
NOTE: This was a bigger November opening than any of the Twilight sequels. That is a lot of excitement.
Anyway, the movie had a ton of great reviews and everyone I know who saw it thought it was wonderful. This movie trilogy is becoming known for staying very true to the books, which we Bibliomaniacs love. And the film has sparked some interesting attention to the book series itself (see this NPR article as an example), which is always nice to see. I just hope the people who see this movie also get around to reading/have read the books 'cause they're sorta great.
I get excited when thought-provoking books (like those in this trilogy) make headlines for any reason. It reminds me just how powerful the written word by itself can be: like, powerful enough to inspire these incredibly successful movies. And when it is a movie or other adaptation that is giving a book hype, it makes me think particularly about how these spiffed-up versions of the original written story change that story (get excited for my upcoming article on this topic: "A Million and One Sherlocks").
For instance, there are two scenes from the Harry Potter series that I saw clearly in my head above and beyond any of the other beautiful images JKR helped me dream up while reading her books. One is the scene when Hermione sees Ron kiss Lavender and she runs off, only to have Harry find her in an empty classroom conjuring twittering birds above her head. In my head, I see her sitting cross-legged on a wooden teacher's desk at the front of a classroom, a dark stained-glass window characteristic of the magical castle she studies at set several feet above her head, deep in the vaulted classroom ceiling. The birds she has pulled from thin air are bluebirds and cardinals, flapping around her head as she bravely, resolutely looks up at them with halfhearted concentration, twirling her wand and leading them in a slow halo around her nest-like poof of brown hair. Her robes are slightly askance and her Gryffindor tie is wrinkled. She does not notice Harry enter the classroom. The second scene is the sequence in the green-glowing seaside cave Harry and Dumbledore brave in search of the locket Horcrux. The cave walls are jagged, vertically layered and crumbling slate. A green light seeps from the slime covering the walls and shines into its crevices. Even the sand leading to the water has a green sparkle to it. The water itself is ghoulishly discolored: it reminds me of an oil slick, or the River of the Dead in the Disney version of Hercules. The sand is wet and Dumbledore and Harry both walk unevenly on it, Dumbledore adjusting to the terrain like a man one-quarter his age, Harry slightly awkward in his movements. A thick mist lays over the water and shrouds the Stonehenge-like landscape of the island they must cross to. Neither of these visions is precisely the same in the Warner Brothers films, and I've had to work hard to preserve my pet images of these scenes since seeing the movies.
Similarly with the fantastical Hunger Games series, everyone who has read the books must have a few special scenes, locations, characters, or sounds they envisioned especially clearly when reading the books that the movies will necessarily change. For me, Effie has never been the same character since the first movie was released--she's more Lolita-styled in the movies than I ever pictured her to be while reading. There's a great quote passed around in the radio station I work at--"Radio: It's like TV, but the pictures are better." I think the same can be said of the written word as the spoken word. As gorgeous as the Hunger Games film franchise (and/or Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth and that new guy playing Finnick) may be, the book trilogy can be even more beautiful in my head. These integrations of multiple forms of the same story make for a dynamic, richly textured understanding of the core of the story at hand.
So whether you read or view first--have fun piecing together all of the little metaworld bits you can from all adaptations of The Hunger Games. You may just get closer to the fine details of the story than you ever expected. When I saw the movie, I was stunned by what a different take on Katniss I came out of the theater with--not one that the author would disapprove of either. Seeing Katniss from another dimension gave me a view that made me love her, sympathize with her which I didn't usually do in the books. Also, seeing the Capitol and the desperation in the arena afresh and in a new light is a powerful reminder of what a terrible thing absolute power can be. I saw the film with a friend who dozed off: she apparently didn't find the film as frightening as I did. We, after all, live in a world where governments and rebels and desperate organizations carry out awful crimes every day--whether against a few select "Tributes" or massive numbers of unfortunate, innocent people. This is a series to think about. That is why I like seeing it make headlines.
For some interesting info on how the final book of the trilogy, Mockingjay, might be difficult for filmmakers to stay true to, check out this Buzzfeed article!
- Holmes, Linda. "What Really Makes Katniss Stand Out? Peeta, Her Movie Girlfriend." NPR. N.p., 25 Nov. 2013. Web. 28 Nov. 2013.
- The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Advertisement. Free Fever. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2013.
- Smith, Grady. "'Hunger Games: Catching Fire' Breaks November Record." EW. CNN Entertainment, 25 Nov. 2013. Web. 28 Nov. 2013.
- Vary, Adam B. "9 Moments from 'Mockingjay' That Could Be Very Depressing On Film." Buzzfeed. N.p., 25 Nov. 2013. Web. 28 Nov. 2013.