Monday, March 26, 2012


We have temporarily taken control of this month's blog run on films from the 1950's to bring you a guest movie commentary on The Hunger Games from author Joyce Scarbrough.

"The book was better."

I'd say this is true for 95% of movies that are based on books, with 4% having the book and the movie equally good and 1% of movies that are better. (I'm a word person and don't play well with numbers, so don't hold me to those percentages. Hey, at least they add up to 100!)

So it was no real surprise that the theatrical version of THE HUNGER GAMES fell into the 95% category, yet I still found myself quite disappointed that this movie I had anticipated seeing on the big screen more than any other didn't quite live up to my expectations. Don't get me wrong--it's a good movie full of excitement, visual thrills and moving scenes. I'm sure anyone who sees it that hasn't read the books will think it's fabulous. It was just missing the deep, soul-stirring elements that make me love the book series so much.

It certainly wasn't the fault of the cast. While some of the actors were not how I pictured the characters, they all did a great job of bringing their roles to life and won me over. Especially Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss and Josh Hutcherson as Peeta. Their scenes together were magical--both the action-filled and the emotional ones.

No, I think the biggest problem was the inherent limitations of watching a movie versus reading a book, especially a book written in the first person POV. While Jennifer Lawrence did a wonderful job of showing Katniss's amazing bravery, devotion to her family and strength of character, even her award-worthy acting skills could not portray Katniss's inner conflicts, subtle revelations about herself and her fellow tributes, and her ingenious ability to control her outward appearances and reactions because she knew she was always being watched by the entire country.

Not only did Katniss have to manipulate the spoiled Capitol citizens whose sponsorship she needed to survive, she had to be constantly mindful that her sister and mother were being forced to watch everything that happened to her. You really can't show this through facial expressions, and it's not something Katniss would talk about with anyone even if she could do so without being overheard. So it's a major part of the story's draw that is missing from the movie.

There were other important aspects of the story that I think the director didn't do justice to or omitted altogether. This was probably because of time limitations, but I think some of the special effect scenes and visual gut-punches could have been shortened in order to show things like how desperate Katniss was to find water when she first went into the arena and how she almost died of dehydration. She finds a water source immediately in the movie and never even gets thirsty! The same thing is true of the pain she and Peeta suffered from their injuries and how close they came to dying, and also the emotional bonding between them that developed gradually while they cared for each other. These things were skipped in exchange for more death scenes, and it kept the movie audience from connecting as much to Katniss and Peeta as readers do in the books.

For me, the biggest thing about both these books and the movie is the magnificence of the heroine. Katniss is both bigger than life and completely human at the same time, and I cheered for her not only because of what she meant to the story, but for what she meant to the millions of young girls reading about her. Her message is this:

You are capable of making a difference in the world every bit as much as any of your male counterparts, and don't ever let anybody convince you otherwise!

And while the heroines in my books don't inspire any revolutions like Katniss does, they do share her belief in herself and always stand up for themselves against adversity. If they inspire even a fraction of Katniss's fans, I'll feel as if I've made a difference as a writer.

~Stay true to yourself and your dreams will come true.

-Joyce Scarbrough

We now return control of this blog to Chris, a librarian, at least until the next time we decide to retake control.


  1. Very nice entry, Joyce.

    I do think the percentage of books that are better than their subsequent films might be closer to 65-75%. Though my stats are also not verifiable by any quantitative data.

  2. You may very well be right. I was going by my own experience, and I can name only a few movies off the top of my head that were better than the books--namely, CATCH-22 and THE DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD. I'm sure there are more, but those are the only two I can think of!