BG: So what did you think of the movie?
KG: It didn't seem like the same story. The book didn't translate to the movie very well.
BG: I think it's hard to get from a first-person novel to a third-person film. That may explain why the producers ended up with a second-rate director. The good directors shied away from the script. If anybody deserves a poison berry for the The Hunger Games (2012), it's Gary Ross. He just never found the right mix of action and contemplation to make his film work. And he never got close to the horror in the book, of Cato's death for instance. Ross never caught the power of nature, violence and unreason as a sustaining force.
KG: Yeah. Maybe it would have been a better movie if they weren't trying to make "The Hunger Games." The book is so iconic now and so many people share it that if you try to be true to the characters and plot the way all these people imagined it and trying to please everyone, you can't make a good enough movie.
BG: Maybe it's about selection. Picking the right things about characters and the right scenes from the novel to make a good film.
KG: They didn't do a very good job of that. The scenes at the cornucopia were important and they fell short. It's such an important part of the arena, and the things that happen by it and around it set the mood for everything in the arena. The actors they chose were wrong. Except for Peeta and Primrose. Josh Hutcherson was right for Peeta. Willow Shields was perfect as Primrose. Jennifer Lawrence was too old to play Katniss. And she didn't look hungry. And they dyed her hair! Donald Sutherland was a terrible choice for President Snow. The people in the capitol are supposed to age gracefully. They're supposed to be thin. And they missed a really good chance to contrast the people from the capitol with the people from the districts at the beginning when Effie Trinket comes to District 12. She should have been way over the top.
Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games, Lionsgate, 2012
BG: Aging gracefully means staying thin? Got it. The producers are going to be up against it, trying to cram in two more movies before Lawrence turns 25. And yet, Lawrence is about all that The Hunger Games (2012) has going for it. She is someone people can care about. Her face is large enough and smooth enough for the camera to linger on, to turn into the kind of landscape we're missing for most of the movie. What do you make of the fact that Collins gave the kids from District 12 nature names, like Katniss, Primrose, Gail (like a strong wind), and even Peeta (like the bread)?
KG: They don't have much. All they've got is nature. Nature helps them survive. They'd be dead without it.
BG: Did you miss knowing what Katniss was thinking?
KG: Oh, yes. Definitely. What she was thinking is over half the book, and when you take it away there's like this enormous weight on the dialogue and the body language to communicate the depth of what she was thinking.
BG: It's hard to find good external signs of inner dialogue and change. Katniss goes from girl to woman, from huntress to warrior, and, at the end, back to girl. If Ross had pulled that off, he would have had a great movie. All of that teenage energy and drama, dropped into the middle of gladiatorial training and combat. OMG. The screenwriters, who included Susan Collins, and the director missed so many chances. Katniss' thoughts at the end of the film could have been externalized by having her say them out loud to Peeta, for example. I thought the most effective scene in the film was Katniss' hallucination in the arena. It works because you finally get into Katniss' point of view.
KG: At the end of the fighting, when Cato makes his big political speech, he could have been talking for Katniss.
BG: Anything else?
KG: Yes, there are two main things that they changed in the movie that they should have left the same. The first one is the mockingjay pin. It's the symbol of the whole book and when they had her getting it at the hob they demolished the connection between Madge ( the mayor's daughter ) and Katniss. The problem there is now in later movies they will need to think up a new way for her to meet Madge or leave that part out completly, butchering the story even more. The other thing that left a lot to be desired was the dogs. Sure they were in the movie, but they looked like pit bulls on steroids, not the terrible mutations that would later haunt Katniss and give her even more depth as a character.
BG: Okay. I want to leave you with a couple of thoughts. There is a way to get The Hunger Games back. Go re-read the book. And this. It's from a poem by Yeats.
What master made the lash.
Whence had they come,
The hand and lash that beat down frigid Rome?