The Movies That Made the Books Better

CATCHING-FIRE.-OR-SOMETHING.This weekend I had the chance to watch Catching Fire on Blu-ray. I have been looking forward to re-watching it since I first saw it back in November. I have really come to love this series, but it was not always so.

When I first read The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins I didn’t “get it”. I could not understand what the big deal was. Sure I picked up on the blatant theme of an oppressive government ruling its people with fear, and that one particular person was thrown into a very unfortunate situation and made to do the best she could with it. The rest of what I took away from my reading experience was generally an unsettling aftertaste from all of the extreme violence. When I was reading The Hunger Games I would sometimes pause and think….why am I reading this?! This is an AWFUL experience. More than once I wanted to just stop. I really struggled to read about all of these children’s gruesome and painful deaths. Somehow I powered through them, determined to see how it all ended. I read all three books beginning to end in about a week, I finished them mostly just to say I had read them, and because I wanted to make sure I had read the books before I saw the movies because that is just how you’re supposed to do it….right? When I was done, I came away from them pretty unsatisfied with the experience. I thought they were just okay. I was glad I was done with them, and I figured they were just another over hyped YA series that only a teenager could really enjoy.

Fast forward to March 2012 when I decided to go see the movie adaptation. I didn’t have high expectations, considering my book experience.

Oh my god, was I wrong. I LOVED the movie. As I walked away from the experience I finally “got it”.  Here is why.

The actors cast for this movie are excellent. Jennifer Lawrence is impeccable in the role of Katniss. She brought the character to life in a way my imagination clearly could not. She was able to portray the love one has for a sister in a way that was totally genuine, and when Primrose was selected for the games my heart broke with her. It really made me think about it… that if I was in that situation, I would do that for my sisters. I would do that for anyone I loved. She really brought it to life for me.

However, the character that really made the movie great was Donald Sutherland as President Snow. Oh my god, President Snow.

The books do not show President Snow except for what Katniss sees of him, which is almost nothing. Obviously, the books are written in first person, so the only way to get the background information would be to deviate from that perspective. This is clearly what contributed to me not “getting it”.

Seeing the various perspectives presented in the movie is why I finally got it. We see President Snow’s perspective, what he is thinking and why. We see how the games are manipulated behind the scenes. We see what is going on in the other districts, how they are affected by what is occurring in the games. All of this helped me see the bigger picture, to see past just the violence and understand what the message really is. It is one that is very deep and highly individualized. For me, the biggest takeaway lessons are:

1. Power is a tricky and potentially dangerous thing. Too much of it in the wrong hands is clearly a recipe for disaster.

2. Fear is powerful, and something that must be controlled or eradicated in order to make progress.

3. One person CAN make a difference in the world. Even reluctant heroes can still be heroes.

After seeing Catching Fire, my love of the series has now been solidified. Everything that was great about the 1st film was 10x better this time. The characters are more comfortable in their roles, the stakes are higher, and above all…. everything about it felt more….hungry.

I am now ready to re-read the books, and I am glad that this time they will be colored by my film experience. This depth that has been added will hopefully help me find increased love for the books as much as I currently have for the films.

May the odds be ever in my favor… and yours as well!

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