I read The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins for the first time back in 2017 (yeah, I lived under a rock back then) and watched the entire movie series afterwards, and because they were so popular and such major movies, I did a book/movie comparison instead of individual reviews.
Now newly recompiled, here are the differences I noticed between the two mediums, and why these differences are significant throughout the trilogy!
The Hunger Games
1. The Introduction
The introduction of the movie sums up the first few chapters of the book fairly well, though there is far more background in the book (pretty much as all book to movie conversions). However, the relationship between Gale and Katniss isn’t as defined at the start of the movie as in the book.
2. The Mockingjay Pin
How Katniss got the Mockingjay pin is far more meaningful in the book than in the movie. In the book, the mayor’s daughter gives Katniss the pure gold pin as a token of being tribute, which then allows it to become a symbol for Katniss among District 12. In the movie, a Hob woman hands it to Katniss before the reaping without much insight on the pin. This doesn’t give the audience much information about the state of the district and the worth of the pin to Katniss. However, the movie tries to add sentimentality to the pin when Katniss gives it to Prim to protect her before the reaping, and then Prim gives it back after the reaping for the same reason. The emphasis of the meaning behind the pin is changed to focus on the sacrifice for sisterhood, rather than the sacrifice for District 12- so the movie kind of muddied the waters there.
3. Katniss and Peeta’s Romantic Portrayal
In the novel, it is understood that Katniss and Peeta are trying to gain favor with the general public by exploiting Peeta’s romantic interest in Katniss. In the book, Katniss plays along, understanding that it could help them survive. Yet in the move, Katniss is more reluctant and restrained in showing affection for Peeta. In fact, it’s Peeta’s idea to hold hands during the opening ceremony in the novel, though the movie had Cinna’s urging her to play to the crowd by holding Peeta’s hand. This restraint carries throughout the movie, and it makes their romantic interest in each other hard to believe in. In the books, you really think there could be something between them from the insight of Katniss’ internal conflict.
4. Katniss’ Display to the Scoring Panel
This way more thrilling in the book detail than the movie, although visually seeing her hit the apple was pretty cool!
5. Constant Surveillance
The constant surveillance isn’t as apparent in the movies as in the book. The things that Peeta tells Katniss the eve of the Games in the movie is less censored than in the book. The surveillance in general during the Games is also lesser than the book portrays. Katniss doesn’t act up or hide her emotions in the movie as often as the book says. In the book, they seem to be constantly aware of the cameras.
6. Katniss and Rue
The relationship between Katniss and Rue wasn’t as developed in the movie as the book. You get that they admire each other, but you don’t see Katniss’ soft side, or the development of sisterhood between them, in which Katniss is reminded of Prim in Rue.
7. The Cornucopia Explosion
Katniss didn’t stay hidden after blowing up the cornucopia in the movie, nor did they explain her hearing loss.
8. District 11 Uprising
The uprising of District 11 in the movie wasn’t discussed much in the book. None of the underlying Gamemaker/Capital political business is truly revealed, but only speculated about by Katniss until the end of the book. Even so, there wasn’t any mention of any district outside of the capital being upset about the Games ending the way that it did.
9. Star-crossed Lovers Ending
The love story is definitely not played up as much in the movie, as I mentioned before, therefore making the whole “Romeo and Juliet star-crossed lovers” death threat at the end of the movie a lot less believable. Whereas in the novel, the whole end of the book is Katniss trying to sort out her feelings for Peeta in the Games vs her reality.
10. Cliffhanger Ending
There is no mention of how Peeta and Katniss are separated at the end of the movie, or how Peeta finds out about Katniss not reciprocating the same feelings for Peeta, unlike the book which gives a resolution that allows the reader to understand where these two characters stand after the Games. This cliffhanger ending used in the movie is obviously supposed to set the audience up to see the next movie to find out what happens between them.
1. The Visit with Snow
In the book, there was no heads up that there were “visitors”- ie. President Snow and his cronies- coming to talk to Katniss. In the movies, Prim announces their arrival and Katniss’ mother does all the talking with President Snow.
2. Katniss and Peeta’s Romantic Portrayal, Round 2
Again, not knowing where the two landed relationship-wise after the Games in the first movie, Katniss and Peeta are clearly not happy with each other and acting awkward. Therefore, their forced relationship in front of the camera and the slip in the snow was pretty unconvincing in the movie. The book makes their interaction seem much more playful, and not so forced. Though they were both feeling awkward, they know how to act for the camera, and in the book they run up to each other and actually slip in the snow.
3. The Gamemaker’s Watch
The head Gamemaker didn’t show his watch in the movie, which is a very important moment in the book, later on.
4. The Peacekeeper
In the book, Thread, the new head Peacekeeper, is introduced when Gale is caught bringing a turkey to sell to the old head Peacekeeper, Clay. This is why Gale gets whipped in the book- for going outside the district fence- and in which the first hit Katniss takes for Gale. In the movies, Thread storms into town with a troop of Peacekeepers, and Gale gets whipped because he goes after Thread for hitting Katniss. In the movie, Haymitch talks Thread down from his rage to stop the lashings, without the more friendly peacekeepers.
5. District 13
In the movie, the audience doesn’t know District 13 is still existing until the very end, and there is no mention of the refugees heading for the district. In the book, there are two runaways who talk to Katniss outside District 12 about how their district was rebelling against the capital, and how they were running away to District 13. They noticed that the Capital was using the same propaganda footage about the fall of District 13 in their justice department, because a Mockingjay could be seen in the same place every time in the footage- so they knew that the district must still exist, and the Capital was hiding it. The significance of District 13 still being alive is lost in the movie, as well as the added significance to the symbol of the Mockingjay.
6. The District 12 Fence
In the movies, Katniss doesn’t get stuck outside the main wire fence of District 12 or hurt herself, whereas in the book, the electrical fence that surrounds the district is turned back on by Thread in retaliation for taking the hit for Gale, and in the hopes of catching Katniss in a situation that could be punishable by death.
7. Career Tribute Training
In the movie, there is no “career” tribute training, or really any lead-up to the reaping. In the novel, the reader understands that the Capital and wealthier districts train their youth to prepare them for the Games, giving them an advantage to win (and therefore survive). Winning the Games reflects well on the districts because of the glory and financial support. Though both the movie audience and book readers know that Snow is plotting against Katniss, only the readers understand the injustice of “career” tributes and their training. For the poverty-stricken districts, they are mostly relying on the survival skills they’ve utilized to stay alive in their district and homes.
8. Picking on the Prude
The movie doesn’t explain why the Victors are “picking on the prude”. Katniss is kissed on the mouth by the District 11 male victor, and then in the elevator, Joanna strips in front of Haymitch, Peeta, and Katniss, and Katniss is flabbergasted. She ends up having a fight with Peeta when the situation is discussed. In the movie, that discussion on Katniss’ perceived “prude” nature isn’t mentioned, and therefore leaves the movie audience wondering what that was all about.
9. The Tribute Training Facility
In the movie, there is a new training center and living quarters. In the book, it’s the same facility, and Peeta and Katniss dislike the familiarity of the place.
10. Peeta’s Painting
Peeta’s painting of Rue is clearly shown in the movie, not hidden like in the book. This may seem minor, but the book’s version (where the painting is hidden) shows more of the constant concealment of any sort of revolt against the Capital.
11. The Wedding Dress
In the movie, there is no mention of why President Snow picked the wedding dress for the tribute interview. It is just suggested that there was mal intent and he made her wear it, but there was no lead up to that ordeal. In the book, we understand that it was all part of curing favor from the public. As part of the act, Katniss explains in her interview that her and Peeta had “planned” to marry, and this is what she would have worn, had they not become tributes again.
12. The Spiel
The movie blows right past an explanation when it comes to the spiel (the spigot tree tap that allows them to drink fresh water), as well as how it was “earned”. The audience is left to figure that one out, while the book readers know what it was, why it was important, and how Peeta and Katniss got it from a sponsor.
13. The Chaotic Ending
After the ordeal with the spiel, for the most part, the book and movie correlate relatively well, and the movie was better than the book for the ending of Catching Fire. I thought that the movie was especially helpful to the reader audience for providing a visual to the ending of Catching Fire, as the climax and conclusion of the book is a complex and action packed scene, where many things happen at once. I know when I read the last pages of Catching Fire, I just kept thinking, what just happened?!
1. The Reunion with Gabe
In the movie, when Katniss reunites with Gabe, there is no lead up, nor is it as emotionally charged as in the book. At this point in the book, Katniss is still having a lot of internal conflict about who she loves more, Peeta or Gale.
2. Becoming the Mockingjay
Katniss’s conditions of becoming the Mockingjay are cut short. In the movie, she only asks for Peeta, Johanna, and Annie to be spared (and no mention of Enobaria) to be pardoned, and for her sister’s cat to stay in District 13. No mention of hunting, no mention of Gale being beside her at all times, no mention of getting to kill Snow (unlike in the book.)
3. The Mockingjay’s Team
Up to this point in the movie, there is no mention of Haymitch, except that he’s “drying out”. Effie is asked to help prep the Mockingjay, instead of who was left from the stylist team. There is also no mention of the abuse to the stylist team, which is important in that it adds depth to the kind of person Coin is as a leader- the kind who hurts the innocent. These details are all in the book.
4. Coin’s Background
Prim relays the information about the District 13 epidemic and that Coin loses her husband and daughter to the epidemic, which is something that I either completely missed in the book, or was a Hollywood addition for sympathy from the audience.
5. The “Miscarriage”
In the movie, Katniss breaks the “news” about her miscarriage in District 8 while on a revolution tour, when in the book it was a rumor spread the District 13 rebel leaders like Haymitch, Coin, and Plutarch. Also while in District 8, when the attack on the hospital happens, the movie only shows Katniss shooting one plane down. In the book, there are a series of planes in a geese formation, which Gale and Katniss take down like they did “in the old days”, which demonstrates their continued bond.
6. District Uprisings
The movie gives a lot more coverage of other district uprisings in comparison to the book, which mostly relays information via narration from Katniss.
7. Hunting in District 13
Hunting above ground was Gale’s idea, which Coin allowed in the movie, and relayed to Katniss as a surprise. In the book, this was one of the requests Katniss makes as a condition of being the Mockingjay.
8. The Evacuation
The evacuation to the lower level is portrayed with way more panic and chaos in the movie than the book describes. The only dramatic part in the book is when Prim can’t be found. No idea what all the rain is about in the movie either… I don’t remember any pipes bursting underground, so I’m not sure why it’s pouring in the movie (Titanic, anyone?)
9. Peeta’s Rescue
In the book, Katniss is supposed to be talking with Finnick as a distraction during the rescue mission of Peeta and the others captured during the Quarter Quell. However, in the movie, Katniss isn’t partaking in the physical mission- instead, she is watching the rescue from mission control while in communication with President Snow, which didn’t actually happen.
10. Peeta’s Rehab
In the movie, the District 13 leaders send in Prim, not Delly, as the first introduction to Peeta after he attacks Katniss. This makes no sense to those who read the book, because Prim would be a definite trigger that would connect back to Katniss, who was essentially the person the Capital brainwashed him to hate and get violent about.
11. Poisoning the Minister
President Snow poisoning the minister was definitely a show piece for the movie audience and not a part of the book- or at least, it wasn’t narrated, but more speculated about by Finnick.
12. Johanna and Katniss’ Friendship
In the movie, Johanna looks at Katniss’s personal things in the hospital, not in their room. Johanna shows no hesitance when she sees the stuff, nor gets permission from Katniss to look at the things. This doesn’t allow the movie audience to see their sort of camaraderie build.
13. The 451 Squad
Instead of earning her place on the 451 squad, and showing the effort that Johanna and Katniss put into training, the movie bypasses the situation and has Johanna cover for Katniss after Finnick and Annie’s wedding so that Katniss can sneak onto a plane headed for the Capital. This frustrated me, because there was so much character development for Johanna in the book during that time period, and when she fails to make the team, it was meaningful to the reader as to why. The same goes for Katniss, especially when she outwits the training simulator into thinking she can follow orders. Anyways, it was so Hollywood to see her walk into the war front and of course everyone was recognizing her, and then when she meets up with Gale, she learns that Coin is annoyed with her now that she’s gone rogue. In the book, the mistrust from Coin is found out later. Finally, the squad is introduced while in the Capital during the movie, when in the book they are all shipped to the capital together.
14. The Holo
Finnick recognizes the Holo as akin to the Hunger Games arena before Katniss- in the book it is visa versa.
15. The Snow Mansion
In the movie, Katniss and Gale are the only ones to head out toward the Snow mansion, unlike in the book when all five of them head out. In the book, the significance of the remaining squad members leaving to create distractions from Katniss as she makes her way into the mansion is lost in the movie. The same goes for Gale giving his nightlock pill to Peeta, and for Peeta wanting to protect Katniss. Additionally, when Gale is captured, it is supposed to be such a chaotic moment that Katniss doesn’t even have time to hear or register what Gale was shouting at her. She is not supposed to hear Gale saying “shoot me”.
16. In The Garden
In the book, Snow isn’t locked up within the garden, but in the movie he is.
17. The Snow / Katniss Showdown
In the book, Katniss only gets one arrow in the book to shoot Snow, and she mentions the lack of stage space, and how close she was to Snow for the execution. Yet in the movie, she walks away with a full quiver, and the movie has the execution set in a huge wide-open area. And on top of that, Peeta is there to witness the whole event when he should actually still be in the hospital.
There you have it, as many discrepancies as I could note while watching the films. I would like to say that overall, these movies kept me on the edge of my seat, and I enjoyed the way the actors fit their roles. Also, I have such an appreciation for Katniss as a lead character. To go through the journey of horrors that Katniss had to deal with for three books, to the relatively happy ending in which even she has to remind herself that she is still surviving… talk about heavy heart. Collins gave me- us- quite the heroine.