The following list will contain spoilers if you haven’t read the book The Hunger Games or seen the recently released film of the same name. As I mentioned a few days ago in my review of The Hunger Games book, I just finished reading the first book in the trilogy. With that information fresh in my head and seeing the movie on Friday night, here is a list of some of the key ways I noticed the movie and the book differ.
In the movie…
The mockingjay pin’s origin differs. In the book, the pin is given to Katniss by the Mayor’s daughter. Katniss often sells strawberries she collects to the mayors. The daughter gives it to Katniss as the one district item you are allowed to bring to The Hunger Games. No reason for Cinna to hush that he snuck the pin in.
Peeta’s dad doesn’t stop by Katniss’s room after The Reaping. After the tributes are selected, they are given a short time to meet with people and say goodbye. One of the people that stop by is Peeta’s dad, the baker. He often buys Katniss’s squirrels. He gives her a package of cookies to take with her. They run out of things to say and spend the rest of the time in silence. Katniss throws the cookies (a rarity she could never afford in district 12) and throws them out the train window at the thought that she has to treat Peeta as an enemy, not a friend in The Hunger Games.
Katniss’s mom is shown as being pretty useless. Sure, after Katniss’s dad died in the mine explosion, her mom sunk into a depression and couldn’t do much around the house to take care of Katniss and Prim. Without Katniss, the family would have died. However, her mom has recovered and is operating an apothecary in district 12 now with herbs collected beyond the perimeter. Katniss thinks about how Prim is scared of the woods but is able to deal with the medical sights that scare Katniss off to the woods. It’s because of some of her mom’s knowledge that Katniss is able to find some plants during the games and understands how Rue treats her tracker jacker stings.
Haymitch doesn’t fall off the stage nor does he make the sobriety pact with Katniss and Peeta. In the book, Haymitch, the bumbling drunk of a previous Hunger Games and mentor to future contestants, falls off the stage during The Reaping and making a fool of himself, which everybody will see across the nation. He also, on the train in the book, makes an agreement to stay just sober enough if the tributes promise to try to win.
Peeta’s hands aren’t hurt by Katniss after she attacks him for confessing his love. It’s illegal for one tribute to attack another before the games begin. That’s why they have sparring partners instead of just fighting each other during training. After Peeta’s interview where he explains his crush on Katniss, she attacks him for making her look weak. This was in the movie, but in the book she shoves him and he lands in a vase that cut his hands – not a great condition to have going into a death match.
Katniss does not suffer dehydration or near starvation in the Games. With a runtime of 142 minutes, I understand the movie was getting long and a lot had to get cut. This, being probably my biggest complaint of the movie’s adaptation, is that it felt fast. The Hunger Games have stats of the environment killing about 60% of tributes. Hunger, dehydration, cold, and other factors affect the tributes plenty but the movie felt like it all went by pretty fast. Katniss had a knack for hunting and knowing what to eat from the woods that the others didn’t. This is why her plan of destroying the Careers’ hoarded supplies was worth the risk.
Katniss doesn’t seem to permanently lose hearing in her left ear but have it fixed by the medical staff at the end of the Games. As the result of the explosion, Katniss loses hearing in her left ear and can’t seem to get it back. This throws her off her balance, makes her vulnerable, and reduces her confidence as she heavily relies on all of her senses to keep her alive in The Hunger Game and to hunt back home. Though, if she doesn’t survive, she won’t have to worry about back home.
District 11 riots instead of sending Katniss a loaf of bread. After Katniss avenges Rue’s death, sings to her, and buries her in flowers, District 11 is thankful. They do something that had never been done before, the district send the tribute of another district a gift. In this case, it was a small loaf of bread in District 11′s style (learned from Peeta).
Katniss sneaks off in the night instead of drugging Peeta to go to the feast. Peeta desperately needed medicine to cure the infection in his leg and it seemed likely that it would be what District 12 was going to be provided at the Feast. Since sponsor gifts get more expensive the longer the games last and the medicine would have been very expensive on day 1, Katniss can’t seem to hope that the medicine would be delivered to her. She steps outside from their cave shelter to see a silver parachute coming in. Could Haymitch have gotten a sponsor for the very expensive medicine? She tastes a drop of it and recognizes it as medicine that knocks you out for a long time with just a regular dose. She mixes the medicine with berries, convinces Peeta to consume it, hides the cave with rocks, and runs to the Feast to get the needed medicine.
Thresh throws the other girl to kill her instead of using a rock. Pretty minor detail but Thresh saves Katniss and also spares her life out of thanks for her kindness to Rue.
The Muttations don’t have the traits of the dead tributes. In the book, the muttations that attack the tributes at the end each have different attributes of the dead tributes. This makes the beasts that much more frightening and the capitol seem that much more sinister.
Cato doesn’t get body armor at the end. Each of the district’s needed something desperately near the end of the Games which lures them to the Feast. What did Cato need? Body armor to give him a fighting chance against Katniss’s bow and arrows. In the movie, he didn’t seem to have it.
Peeta keeps all his limbs. Though Katniss secured the medicine, between the infection and the muttations, Peeta is rushed off to the medical staff as soon as the Game are over. Katniss is rushed off as well. Her hearing and scars are all cured. She is left wondering about Peeta though and finally gets to see him in good health. He does reveal, however, that he now has a prosthetic leg. None of that happened in the movie.
Despite these difference, the movie was still good and a pretty accurate adaptation given the medium. The book, as in most cases, is better at providing details and access to character’s thoughts. I would recommend reading the book and then seeing the movie.
Did you notice any other differences between the book and movie? Did it make the movie better or worse?