The Hunger Games trilogy is made up of three books by author Suzanne Collins, the first of which sharing the same title as the series and is followed by Catching Fire and finished with Mockingjay. At the time of posting, only the first two are finished films and the third book is to be split into two further films. Great.
Whether you have read the books, watched the films or fall into the increasingly large group of people who have done both, everyone takes different things from the trilogy. The question is; why should you care?
A dark, grim future
Let’s not mince words here; this is a dystopian story but a lot darker than many others. Considering that this is primarily aimed at a teenage audience and it becomes an even darker prospect. I like dystopian stories – you get a real sense of not only the world you’re reading about but the author as well. Every dystopia is different, right down to the way it’s presented to the reader as a utopia. Collins does this well and we’re given Panem – a world that isn’t too distant from the one we live in but far enough to give people the sense of fantasy they need to not worry about the issues raised if they don’t want to. Panem is located somewhere on the western side of North America but details are scarce so it’s hard to know when in the future this nation evolves or what happened to make it so. Even more elusive are details that led to the rebellion that brought forth the Hunger Games.
Bonding with the characters
Well, character, really. Katniss Everdeen is our protagonist. Upon watching the first film, I really didn’t like her – I almost hated her. By the end, I could kind of understand where she was coming from. Almost. Sort of.
The book gives us a much better introduction and development of her character. It’s not that she’s not a cold, heartless bitch as the film makes her out to be, but you can understand why she is from the books.
Going through the series, you do end up rooting for her but there is a huge positive influence in her life with Haymitch, who is also not exactly likeable at first, and Peeta. Gale wins the support of people early on but by the time he really steps up to a significant role, Peeta is too important to lose. Honestly, if you can bond with Katniss at all, you’ll bond with everyone. The only problem is when Haymitch and Katniss come to blows. This happens a lot, it’s very entertaining but it provides some real conflicts and issues to contend with.
The books versus the films
I’ve enjoyed the first two films. They’re good adaptations but there are some very important scenes and plot points missing in both films. This is to be expected, but they wouldn’t have added much time to the end total and it would have made a much more fulfilling story.
The best example of this is in the first film. There is no mention of Katniss’ father throughout the film. In the book, we are told of the mine explosion and that’s how he and other people from District 12 died. In the film, we see the mine explode but no significance is really made of it. Unfortunately, this happens quite a few times and another really important example (at least for me) is with the Avox, whom we meet in The Hunger Games book but never in the film. Its things like this that detract from the film, and even if you don’t read the books there is a sense something is missing.
That being said, I think the second film is the better of the two and will possibly be the best of all. I’m not a fan of splitting the last book in two – this is a trilogy and should stay as one. Mockingjay is no longer or more complex than the other two so why split it?
I really think that almost everyone will get some value from these books. They are extremely well written and you’ll get through them very quickly. One thing I always look for is how well a story flows, and this is something Collins has pretty much nailed. I’d definitely recommend all three, but I do accept that the issues raised can be disturbing, and with it being a dystopian vision, it makes everything grimmer.
The films are a bit different. I think, overall, they hold true to the main themes and issues raised in the books but there are some glaring gaps which makes it hard for some people to really get the full gist of some characters, events and locations – my favourite example of how cold Katniss is in the first book is an easy one to point to again.
I think the films are decent, and worth watching (I’m still disappointed that Mockinjay is being split in half) but you’ll get a much better view of the world and its characters by reading the books. Katniss in particular is far easier to relate to, and as she’s the protagonist, that’s kind of important!