‘The Hunger Games’ is one of few films adapted from a book that has aged well. In a world where adaptations tend to lose some critical aspect of their character to the whims of Hollywood, Suzanne Collins’s original vision survived remarkably well on the silver screen. It has now been 10 years since the story of Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark’s rise against the totalitarian nation of Panem has been adapted, and we at Bookstr are here to celebrate.
Though The Hunger Games has kept much of the book’s intrinsic literary power, that’s not to say it didn’t undergo big changes in the process of being adapted. To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of The Hunger Games film adaptation, we will look at the ten biggest changes made to the story for better or for worse.
1. The removal of Madge Undersee
Movie-goers will likely not recognize her; however, those who have read the books were probably wondering about her strange absence in the first film and onward. Madge was a minor character and a school friend to Katniss. She was also the daughter of the District 12 mayor, which gave her character a sense of prestige compared to Katniss and Gale. Despite that, Madge was the one who gave Katniss her famed Mockingjay pin in the books but this changed in the film. On the whole, removing the Madge subplot seems to have made the film better paced, but her absence did take away from the lore and significance of the Mockingjay pin.
2. The removal of Peeta’s parents
Compared to Katniss, whose mother and sister played a primary role in her character and surroundings, we never saw Peeta’s family in the films outside of the flashback in which his mother brutally yells at him for burning bread; however, in the books, there was one scene in which Peeta’s father came by to gift Katniss some cookies during the final farewell. If looked at in the context of Peeta’s character, the father’s quiet and kind nature appears to have transferred through to his son — something left unexplained in the Hunger Games film. Peeta, as audiences witnessed, was simply born that way.
3. Haymitch’s absence at the Reaping Ceremony
Those of you who read The Hunger Games book before seeing the film were probably disappointed when you realized they didn’t bother filming Haymitch’s drunken humiliation during the Reaping Ceremony. While this change seems to be a detriment, it would have hijacked the depressive tone of the scene, which defined the film. In a novel, it’s more suitable to mix different tones and emotions; however, films benefit more from their tonal homogeneity, which strengthens impact on the audience. Though it would have been interesting to witness Haymitch falling off the stage in the movie, the choice to omit that scene was for the better.
4. Holding hands on the Capitol chariot parade
The chariot parade scene in The Hunger Games film adaptation stands as one of the hallmarks of the film. One of the reasons for such comes down to Katniss and Peeta’s holding of hands, which signified the unity of their District and their growing popularity in the Capitol. In the book, Katniss’s stylist Cinna informed the decision; however, in the film, the idea was Peeta’s. Compared to the book, in which they were holding hands for the entire duration of the parade, their decision to do so on their own appeared to strengthen the slow-growing bond between the characters. Also, the timing, music, and cinematography played into the intensity of that moment.
5. Seneca Crane’s career-mapping with President Snow
The Hunger Games book took place entirely in the limited perspective of Katniss Everdeen. Indeed, that was the way for the entire series; thus, the movies offered a unique opportunity to provide an expanded view of the story. This, I believe, is one of the fundamental obligations of all film adaptations — to expand the original scope of the story by capitalizing on the benefits of the medium. The Hunger Games film did this by showing Seneca Crane, the head Gamemaker for the 74th Hunger Games, and his long garden talks with President Snow.
The scenes served the story in multiple ways: first, it gave a hook to the audience from the very first scene; second, it introduced the suave and intimidating character of President Snow; third, it gave a sense of the backward totalitarian nature of high society in Panem. That scene of Seneca being locked in a room with nothing but Nightlock berries gave the sense that, no matter how high one rises in Panem, they are always subject to the will of President Snow.
6. The removal of Katniss’s awkward recognition of an Avox
Book fans will tell you that The Hunger Games films, with few exceptions, skipped out on a fundamental and horrifying feature of Capitol society: Avoxes. The prisoner/slaves of the Capitol came from all over Panem and were subject to a life of service and torment for breaking laws, engaging in rebellion, or committing treason. The hallmark trait of an Avox is the removal of their tongue. In book one, Katniss actually recognizes an Avox from her days hunting with Gale. She had been captured by a hovercraft for poaching–something Katniss is quite known for to both book and film fans.
Though the film secured that sense of overbearing totalitarianism with its behind the scenes look at Seneca Crain and President Snow, it missed out on a chance to make the Capitol appear that much more despicable.
7. The addition of the District 11 riot after Rue’s death
As mentioned earlier, a film adaptation is able to expand the scope of a book that is focused solely on one character. Another way The Hunger Games film capitalized on the medium was by giving an expanded view of Panem from other parts of the nation, such as District 11. Following the tragic death of Katniss’s ally Rue, a massive riot took place, demonstrating the people’s grief and anger toward the injustice. The scene added scope to her death and worked with the growing theme of rebellion that the next films built on.
8. The removal of Katniss’s medical recovery from the Games
Considering the time crunch that all films deal with, it makes sense that, after the finale of the games, the recovery would be skipped; however, the books included Katniss’s extensive healing, which gave sinister implications to Panem as a whole. On exit from the arena, Katniss had a lot of recovering to do from sustained injuries during the games.
In the hospital room, Katniss found herself unable to control her own consciousness, as the Capitol doctors had hooked her up to several IVs, preventing her from leaving. Also, her team of stylists nearly had her surgically modified during the period. Not including this part didn’t change the story; however, it might have added more to the sense of repression and lack of control characteristic of the Capitol.
9. Behind the scenes of the Hunger Games
The Hunger Games film worked to expand our scope of Panem through Seneca Crane and the District 11 riot. Another way it did this, which was not shown in the book, was its behind the scenes clips of the inner workings of the games. As Katniss and Peeta were reacting to the events taking place, the film cut to Seneca and his staff of Gamemakers pulling the strings to make their lives a living hell. From fireballs to the mutts, witnessing people put the tributes in peril as though they were creating photoshop designs added a whole new level of evil to Panem that the book lacked.
10. Changes regarding the Mockingjay pin
Both book and film fans recognize the Mockingjay pin as the iconic symbol of The Hunger Games series as a whole. Despite its universality between the mediums, its presence among them has differed. For instance, Madge in the book gave Katniss the pin, whereas in the film, she found it while shopping at the Hob and Greasy Sae let her have it for free. According to MTV, Madge giving the pin to Katniss foreshadowed the rebellion that would take place in the series. Just as Mockingjays and The Hunger Games were both intended for use against the Districts, Katniss reversed her role as a hapless tribute in the games to bring the whole of Panem to liberation.
Also, the pin was more of a taboo item for bringing into the games in the book. The film tried to do this by having Cinna pin it to her discreetly; however, MTV explained that the book took it to a different level by stating that the Mockingjay Pin had almost not been allowed to be worn into the arena.
When adapting a book into a movie, there will always be changes. Some may find them good while others may not agree; however, it is clear that The Hunger Games film stands as an example of a nearly perfect book-to-film adaptation and succeeded where many fail. From the standpoint of a decade, The Hunger Games film served as the perfect opening for the series and opened the floodgates on what became a pop culture phenomenon of the 2010s.
If you are interested in more Hunger Games Bookstr content, check out the following links:
The Myth That Inspired ‘The Hunger Games’ Series
The Hunger Games: Book vs Movie Quiz
Featured Image Via Book Riot & IMDb