As with any book to film adaptation, there’s bound to be differences – usually due to cost or for the sake of time constraints. The Hunger Games films are no exception. Whether it be Plutarch not showing Katniss his watch, Gale and Katniss’s interaction at the beginning or a more humanized Effie, there were quite a few differences in Catching Fire, but what were the most important? Further more, what did they add or take away from the film?
A cannon blast brings us all together on the beach. A hovercraft appears in what we estimate to be the six-to-seven o’clock zone. We watch as the claw dips down five different times to retrieve the pieces of one body, torn apart. It’s impossible to tell who it was. Whatever happens at six o’clock, I never want to know. ~ Catching Fire, pg. 348
This passage from Catching Fire discusses one of the various ‘mutations’ found in this years arena. At only a mere paragraph in length, this is could have been one of the most overlooked passages of the novel, but it is actually one of the most terrifying. Nothing is given about this particular monster – not even WHERE the body was taken from. Was it in the jungle or in the water? The imagination of anyone reading this brief passage ran wild and wished for the day this could be shown in the movie. With the movie finally out, no such beast was shown – or even hinted at.
Personally I always imagined some shark-like creature with fangs, claws and blade-like appendages considering the Capitol’s affinity for over the top deadly creature – like the spear faced flamingos in the 50th Hunger Games. Regardless, the real reason that this is on the list is because of what it means for the next two films, Mockingjay Part 1 & 2. In Mockingjay there are countless ‘mutations’, one of which is a hideous humanoid lizard. I feel like seeing this “beast” would have not only answered our questions, but also would have given us a glimpse into what to expect in the next installment as far as graphics. This film’s graphics were much better than the first and I had hoped they would show this – considering how the canine mutations in the first film were nowhere near as terrifying as they were in the book, but maybe thats just it. Perhaps leaving it to our imaginations is what makes this creature so frightening.
4: District 13 Foreshadowing
In the novel we met two District 8 fugitives named Bonnie and Twill. With Katniss overall kept in the dark about the extent of the rebellion in the film, its plain to see why these characters are omitted. On the other hand, these two do a lot more than just inform Katniss about the revolution, they hint at the mysterious District 13 still existing.
Later in the novel, Katniss realizes that all footage of District 13 is the same few seconds of reused stock footage from years ago. In the film, District 13’s existence isn’t brought up until the final moments of the film. With the time constraints, its understandable that these scenes were omitted so that the end could be a total surprise. Instead, the main build up of this film is limited to growing hatred of the capitol and secret alliances forming all around Katniss.
3: Gale’s Whipping
Despite Gale’s whipping – by new head Peacekeeper Romulus – taking place in both novel and film, there are a few key differences. In the novel, Gale is arrested for poaching and another peacekeeper named Darius tries to intervene. Darius is later punished for this action and is turned into an avox – a person punished by having their tongue cut out and then forced to serve the Capitol.
These changes and omissions certainly help narrow the focus of the film, which is a good thing considering the film’s already over 2 hours long, but they also paint Gale as a much more active character. In the novel he is tried for hunting illegally, but here his whipping is a result of him tackling Romulus while he beats another citizen of District 12. This makes Gale much more the hero type and will make his joining the rebellion seem the logical next step.
2: Snow’s Point of View
Throughout the novels, we are presented with the first person perspective following Katniss Everdeen. The movies on the other hand have been presenting us with more and more of a 3rd person perspective. Sure it still follows Katniss predominantly, but in the Catching Fire movie we get to see President Snow’s point of view. As the primary antagonist he’s the obvious choice, but by seeing his side we not only get a behind the scenes look of sorts, but also meet a Snow much different than was presented in the books.
Those who read the books knew of Plutarch Heavensbee’s hidden allegiance to Katniss and the revolution, but the movie painted a very different picture for those newcomers. In the novel, we only really get to see Plutarch when he dances with Katniss and shows off his Mockingjay Watch – a veiled sign of his support. In the movie, we get to see a lot more of Plutarch through his interactions with Snow. He seems almost sadistic as he plans out ways to eliminate Katniss, and with no sign of his watch, he seems almost completely on Snow’s side.
In actuality of course, Plutarch has no allegiance to President Snow and has actually been protecting Katniss. All the advice he’d given to Snow earlier about trying to quell the revolution – though at first seemingly ineffective – was actually very effective in making the revolution ‘catch fire’ even faster. By inserting Snow’s point-of-view, we are able to place Katniss in the larger context of the revolution, and see the inner workings of other important characters rather than just get Katniss’ limited view of them – which will come in VERY handy for the final film – Mockingjay Part II.
The other importance of seeing things from Snow’s perspective is that we get to see the side of him he doesn’t let others see. We see him having breakfast with his granddaughter. Who would have pictured Snow as the ‘loving Grandfather’ type? It’s strange picturing Snow as being so human – speaking of which. In a blink-and-miss scene at the Post Victory Tour Gala, we see blood wash into Snow’s glass as he tries to sip his champagne. The cause of this will be touched upon in the final films, but it is a beautiful foreshadowing to reveal the Snow is very sick/dying – depending on how you interpreted the end of Mockingjay.
1: Haymitch’s Past
Thus far, the changes on this list are more or less stylistic and don’t really take anything away from the story. Sadly, the same cannot be said about the number one difference: Leaving Out Haymitch’s Backstory. Sure, Haymitch is the funny drunkard that we all know and love, but you have to wonder how he could have possibly won his games.
In the novel, we learn that Haymitch took part in the 50th Hunger Games – the Second Quarter Quell – which took 4 tributes from each District to remind the citizens that for every Capitol citizen that died, two rebels died. With twice the number of combatants and everything in that year’s arena as poisonous as it was stunningly beautiful, that year was especially gruesome.
Add in the fact that Haymitch’s mother, younger brother and girlfriend were all murdered because he had used the Capitol’s forcefield to win the game and you get to see what a tragic past he’s had. Between the games, their aftermath, and watching all his trainees die for the past 20+ years, its easy to see why he drinks – and also why he got involved with the revolution to begin with.
Since the final installment Mockingjay is supposed to be split into two films, hopefully they dive into more character development/ backstory and we get to hear about Haymitch’s past. Haymitch is tied with Finnick as my favorite character(s). It’s important to see where he’s come from so that we can see just how powerful a character he is.
Notable Mention: Elevator Scene
Even though this was actually in the book – with minor differences of course – the film version was more amazing that anything I ever expected. Adding Haymitch to the scene was certainly an improvement, as was seeing Peeta’s uneasy but clearly curious facial expressions. The real stars of this scene however were Jena Malone – who played Johanna – and of course Jennifer Lawrence.
I have to hand it to Jena Malone for her portrayal of Johanna. In the book I remember Johanna being a little blunt, but Jena owned it. Whether dropping the F-Bombs or her striptease – not to mention the way she wielded that ax – Jena absolutely pushed Johanna to be one of my favorite characters in this film. What made this scene perfect though was seeing Jennifer Lawrences facial expression. The look of shock, horror, and overall appearance that she is short-circuiting was just hilarious. Having two beyond beautiful and talented actresses share the scene can be tough, but Jena and Jennifer pulled it off perfectly. In fact I almost picked this to be #1, but since there wasn’t much of a difference from the book, it wouldn’t have fit. With any Hunger Games movie we get a plot that basically seems like it should have a narrator, but doesn’t. It took some getting used to in the first one, but here it worked perfectly. This movie is designed for a lover of the books. Throw in the highly updated graphics – more realistic mutations, better Peacekeeper uniforms, etc – and you have a film that blows its predecessor out of the water. I cannot wait for Mockingjay Part I. If the direction continues like this, then things can only get better.