Revisiting “The Hunger Games” trilogy now that plenty of images from and a full-length for the film adaptation of the first book have been released makes for interesting reading. I still see the world Suzanne Collins created as I did at first, but now I also I try to imagine it through the filmmakers’ views, and with Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark (above) and Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne. “The Hunger Games,” coming March 23, lends itself easily for film adaptation — it’s not very long and is paced quite well, never losing momentum and pulling readers quickly into its dystopian tale of children forced to fight to the death. That’s what makes it so readable and enjoyable. But the second and third books, “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay”? Here, we’ve got problems. And here I can say what fans of the book aren’t supposed to: I hope the movie versions are better.
“Catching Fire” already has a release date — Nov. 22, 2013 — but Lionsgate has revealed the trilogy will become a four-part film series. There’s no indication how the last two books will be split up, whether they will be spread out over three films or if “Mockingjay” will be split in half, a la “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” Whatever happens, there’s room for improvement.
“Mockingjay” is the weakest of the bunch, and for much of it we’re inside Katniss’ head. The series is written in first-person from her view already, but unlike in “The Hunger Games,” parts of “Catching Fire” and a chunk of “Mockingjay” are from her perspective when little to no action is happening. And because Katniss is a teenager, albeit a clever and brave one, we’re reminded that teenagers can be pretty annoying. Reading this is OK, but watching it would be dreadful. The book is almost as exhausting as Katniss. I expect the films to speed up the narrative while at the same time expanding it at parts, such as battle scenes. I’m generally a purist when it comes to adaptations; directors can cut material, but adding is a no-no. But if Collins wants to take the opportunity to tweak her work, even giving fans more of a Hollywood ending, I won’t oppose.
“The Hunger Games” series is bleak, and that’s part of its appeal. The series is written for young adults but is in no way kid-friendly. But only the first book is truly addicting. Here’s hoping that on screen, the final two are as well.
So, fans, what are you hoping for in the adaptations? And while most will agree books are almost always better than their movie versions, surely there are exceptions. Any ideas?
Sarah Carlson has a front-row seat to the decline of the newspaper industry and really wishes Peeta were a real person.