The Hunger Games and movies that are better than their books

The Hunger GamesYou may recall that a week or so ago I was talking about the hype surrounding The Hunger Games, reading YA fiction and my disappointment with aspects of the book. The comments on that post led me to reconsider going to see the film. As did many of the comments on Facebook, surrounding the same discussion. So I went with my wife to see the film and you know what? It’s way better than the book. I hate saying that, as films are almost never better than books, but in this case it’s true. And I think I know why.

The main reason a film can never be as good as the book is because you can’t fit all the complexity and detail of a good book into a one and a half to two hour film. Look at the length of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy of films from Peter Jackson. Excellent films they are, and very faithful to the books, but not nearly as good. Not even with the eleven hour total of the extended editions. Therefore, reading the book always immerses you more than watching the film. The characters have more depth, the world is more fully realised, the story itself is more deeply explored. For this reason, a film based on a short story or novella is invariably better than a film based on a novel.

Sometimes a film can be outstanding. The best movie of all time is Blade Runner. Don’t bother arguing that point with me – you’re wrong. Blade Runner is a masterpiece. It’s better than the book it was based on, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick. BUT! It’s better because the movie is inspired by the book, but it’s very different. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep is an excellent book, as is most of PKD’s work. But it’s far from the story that gets told in Blade Runner. So the book inspired the movie, and there’s a lot of crossover, but the movie is not an adaptation of the book.

The Hunger Games movie, to get back to the point, is an adaptation of the book. And it’s a very faithful one. The reason it’s better is because most of the issues I had with the book, the things I saw as the biggest flaws, were excluded in the film. We didn’t have to sit through twenty minutes of how Prim got her fucking goat, for example. As I mentioned in the other post, that I linked at the start of this one, someone said of the book, “I’m sure there’s a pretty good novella in there somewhere.” And that’s why the film is better – the film-makers found that good novella, and that’s the story they told.

Sure, there were some aspects of the film that could have been developed a bit more. Some of the worldbuilding, so boring in the book, could certainly have been given a minute or two more in the film, but in this case I’ll take the tightly-paced, interesting film over the saggy, boring book every time. Which is a shame, because the book should always be better than the film. This time it’s not.

It’s also worth mentioning that Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Katniss in the film, is outstanding. She’s a simply brilliant actor and totally nails the character. She played a strangely similar role in a film called Winter’s Bone. If you haven’t seen that film, I highly recommend it.

Also, thank the tentacled appendages of the Great Old Ones, the film totally fixed up that fucking stupid werewolf thing. I was very pleased about that.

So I don’t think I’ll bother with the other two books, but I’ll probably catch the films when they come out. The Hunger Games movie was really enjoyable, and excellently realised. Reading time is limited and there’s a lot of good stuff out there I want to get to. I would never normally do such a thing, but in this very rare case I’ll skip the books and get the story stright from the movies.

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5 thoughts on “The Hunger Games and movies that are better than their books

  1. I’ve got Winters Bone lined up to watch this weekend. Read the (short) novel the film is based on and thought it was great. From everything I’ve read, the film is as good. I guess because it is a sparse novel anyway, Winters Bone was easy to adapt.

  2. Hi Alan, gotta say I Think Suzanne Collins did a hell of a lot of things right with The Hunger Games, and the movie (of which she was also one of the three screenwriters) distilled the book very nicely.

    However, I can’t say the same for the next two books – they didn’t work for me at all and will certainly make better movies IMO.

  3. Interesting. I was pleased to see that Collins was a co-writer of the movie. Hopefully the next two films do a better job of the story too!

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