I’m not talking Darwin here, at least, I don’t think I am. I’m talking about adapting books to the big screen. Tonight, I saw “The Hunger Games” for the second time in theaters. Once again, I was stunned into silence, meaning I was too enthralled to bother noting the errors in detail and lapses in the plot. I can be quite the annoying movie date (I always talk through the entire thing), but this film has twice stymied my horrific theater habits. The only reason for this that I can find is the wonderful job the filmmakers have done to adapt this best-selling book.
Cue the critics here: too much violence, not enough violence, it’s PG-13, not enough detail, too much detail,blah, blah, blah. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. THEY DID A GREAT JOB ADAPTING THIS BOOK TO FILM. The only adaptation that I would rank higher? “Holes.” Great movie, great book.
Back to “The Hunger Games.” For those fans that are so die-hard that they would have been angry about the color of Octavia’s skin (pea or forest green?), I say get over the lost details. For the movie to follow the book so closely, it would take ten hours to watch and probably five years to get the production just right. So make a mini-series of it, that nagging voice in my head says. Who would make that mini-series? Not enough, ahem, romance for HBO to want it. Maybe ShoTime, but they’d want an edgier tone. Starz? Eh, perhaps, but they wouldn’t have the budget to give the project justice. Plus, they have a limited reach. Not everyone would bother to subscribe to premium cable just to watch a mini-series about “The Hunger Games,” especially when it spread to the entire trilogy.
As for the complaints about the PG-13 rating, there’s a reason the filmmakers needed to keep the rating low enough for younger viewers to watch. “Suzanne wrote these books for young people to be able to read them and discuss them and engage with them,” says [producer Nina] Jacobson, “and we would never make a version of the movies where they couldn’t participate in. They were the ones that started all of it and I think they deserve to have the movie be made for them to be able to see.” This is a quote from an Entertainment Weekly article about why the remaining movies will also be rated PG-13, despite the violent content. If you ask me, kids see worse in video games today.
I think I enjoy book adaptations particularly because it’s fun to find the differences, and for me, to understand why the filmmakers made the decisions they did. It’s neat to see a world I’m so involved in come to life, but not with such exhaustive detail, especially if I’ve already read the book. I know where the mockingjay pin really came from, even if the movie changed that detail. I don’t lose anything from it, and the viewer who hasn’t read the books still understands that the pin is necessary in the story. It’s a win-win situation.
One last comment: I do not believe that “The Hunger Games” movie is a “sellout” to the corporate jungle that is Hollywood. To me, “selling out” would be taking the intricate story that Suzanne Collins wrote and turning it into something it’s not so as to make as much money as possible. I believe that was very possible, and perhaps even done with the advertising, but I don’t think the movie actually let it happen. They could have easily played up the “love triangle” concept and increased the romance, but they really downplayed Katniss and Peeta’s intimacy. They could have focused on the violence, the blood and gore of children killing children. Instead, they used techniques to include the violence without making it truly unwatchable. The filmmakers stayed true to this story about a girl in a terrible situation, pitted against a stacked society. Like I said, great adaptation of a great book.