The Samneric Dialogues 3: Hunger and Reading
Amorak: The Hunger Games. Go.
Mark: Great book. Good movie. Probably as good as it could have been, given that so much of the book is in Katniss’ head/thoughts. I wonder what the experience of seeing the movie would have been like if I hadn’t read the book?
Amorak: My first instinct is to say it would be less pleasurable to watch without having read, because of all that’s glossed over or merely hinted at -- the depth a book has but a movie cannot provide. But then I think maybe it would be only different. That your expectations would be different, that your imagination would fill in the blanks that we fill in from our knowledge of the book. For me, I can’t help but feel like the book is the *real* story and the movie is a gloss on that.
Mark: Yes! For example, I felt like the book makes it clear that Katniss *thinks* Peeta is just playing at being in love with her for the Games, and she is doing the same thing. But we understand that he really is in love with her, and we get to see her struggle with her own feelings about him (the play-acting morphing into something more real). I thought the movie had a tough time playing those subtleties, and that it would be easy for someone coming fresh to the movie to misunderstand the interplay and interpret it as them simply falling in love. But perhaps without the knowledge of the book, I would have been less distracted by such thoughts and would have filled in the blanks myself?
Amorak: I thought the movie handled that particular aspect reasonably well. She was trying to win. He was in love. Though perhaps he was too plainly in love -- there wasn’t enough of a question whether it was a strategy on his part as well. Again, impossible to separate the viewing experience from the I’ve-read-this-already experience. Here’s the essential question for you: Team Peeta or Team Gale?
Mark: I don't wanna choose! They're both so dreamy.... Again, I feel like the movie misses the nuance of the Katniss-Gale relationship. They seem more couple-y on screen, versus the book where we know that Katniss thinks of him as more a kindred spirit and trusted friend with a tinge of budding feelings she doesn’t quite understand.
Amorak: Agreed. When I read the first book, I was wholeheartedly Team Gale. But then by the end of the series, Peeta seemed like the right choice. I actually think this was a weakness in the writing. I thought some things got a little muddy as the trilogy progressed. Like, Collins lost a little control of her characters as she tried to resolve the story. For me, I love the first book, like the second one, and by the end of the third am mostly just reading to see how things turn out for Katniss, whom I adore from start to finish.
Mark: Hate to agree with you yet again, but I felt the same way about the trilogy. Though, I really do remember liking the second book, pretty much right up to the end. I liked the return to the Games, and how weird and different it was for our heroes. And we got to know more of the Tributes, so the stakes were higher. Then it ended. Abruptly. And I had to read back through the last several pages, trying to figure out what I missed. It was a thrilling way to end it, but it almost felt like not an ending at all, just a setup for the third book.
Amorak: Then Katniss is asleep or at least very sleepy through much of the action that follows. Um, fail. We care more about Katniss than the convoluted details of the revolution. Collins got caught up in the working-out of her plot and forgot one of the fundamental rules of storytelling: your characters come first. Especially when your character is an awesome ass-kicking badass. Katniss needed to be central to the outcome of the third book, not waiting around on the periphery until it’s time for her closeup at the end.
Mark: Yeah. So we’re agreed: Hunger Games = Great, Catching Fire = Okay, Mockingjay = Disappointing. And note to Suzanne Collins: we will happily offer our story consulting services before your next blockbuster literary phenomenon. You clearly need our help.
Samneric is Mark D. Orr and Amorak Huey, who would totally win, like, The Amazing Race or something. But probably not the Hunger Games.