I Blame Katniss
Posted on March 26, 2012
Note: The following may include spoilers.
My intent is to write a blog each day. However, yesterday I was derailed from writing. A writer’s bad habit may include the desire to blame someone or something else for blocking his or her writing. This time, I wasn’t blocked as much as contemplating how to create good writing that demands to be adapted.
So I saw The Hunger Games movie in IMAX on Saturday. In short, I was blown away by the adaptation from book to film. My all-time favorite adaptations include To Kill A Mockingbird , A Game of Thrones, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The black and white classic TKAM never fails to get my students to connect to the book even though there are a lot of differences. However, the HBO mini-series for George R.R. Martin‘s book and the LOTR series are by far the most faithful to their sources.
The strongest point of the newest adaptation of the bunch is definitely the commitment to pick the absolute best actors to portray Suzanne Collins‘ characters. Jennifer Lawrence nails the strength of Katniss Everdeen. No one else other than Elizabeth Banks could wear Effie’s pink hair. Josh Hutcherson gets a lot of flack for not being the best choice for Peeta, but I believe he embodies the heart of the character well. I could keep listing the Grade A actors like Stanley Tucci and Woody Harrelson who bring life to Caesar and Haymitch, but I want to get to what had me examining the process of taking a book to film.
I think Collins’ trilogy hits many major high points. It has a broad audience, although it is primarily marketed towards the young adult literature genre. It has a group of heroes who embody the underdog’s journey to overthrow the powers that be. It has a leading lady who stands at the tip of a love triangle with two handsome young men. But unlike the other popular teen sensation turned adaptation, Twilight, the book and the movie go far beyond teenage angsty love. The one thought I had by the end of the movie was if Bella Swan and Katniss Everdeen ever got in a fight, I know it wouldn’t last long.
Collins entrances her readers with strong characters, a clear sense of “world”, and major obstacles to overcome in which everybody can get invested. In today’s economic climate, we all like cheering for the underdog to win and for a totalitarian government to be overthrown. While some of her points may sound familiar and her initial use of the “reapings” should call to mind Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery,” Collins takes it one step further to include the killing of children. Her risk, while captivating when reading, could have derailed the movie. However, they handle it well in how they treat each act of violence. You don’t condone it nor witness it in a horror movie-esque manner. But you are left as a witness to the evils that Katniss must vanquish.
Back to my original contemplation, my first goal is to get something written first. But I cannot lie – I, too, want to dip into the adaptation pool someday. Clearly, Collins offers an example to be followed which first features top notch writing before anything else. So I will be patient when putting together my “worlds’ in which my characters live. Haste will not render the kinds of results that authors such as Tolkien, Rowling, or Collins reap.
To finish my review, I would highly recommend you see The Hunger Games if you’ve read the book. If you have not read it yet, you will still highly enjoy the movie without having the reference point. I think for the first time, we may see people turned onto the book after seeing the movie. If not anything else, you can enjoy seeing the beautiful scenery of Panem, which just happens to be my home state of North Carolina. It is a movie that everyone will enjoy, but I also hope it will inspire a first-time or re-reading of the book as well.