The Hunger Games is a 2012 American dystopian science fiction action film directed by Gary Ross and stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, and Donald Sutherland. It is based on Suzanne Collins’s 2008 novel of the same name, with Collins also writing the screenplay with Ross and Billy Ray. The film starts with Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) interviewing the Gamemaker about the Hunger Games and how it is an important part of the dystopian society. The mostly quiet scene is then cut through with a little girl screaming, which is when the main character Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is introduced as she comforts her sister after a nightmare. Katniss then leaves home and goes into the woods outside District 12 to hunt with her best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) before the Reaping later that day. The Reaping is when one girl and one boy from each of the 12 districts is chosen to fight to the death in the country’s annual event of the Hunger Games. At the Reaping, Katniss’s little sister is chosen to fight in the games, but fearing for her little sister’s life, the 16-year-old volunteers to go in her place. After this, another 16-year-old Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutchinson) is selected out of the boys, and the two tributes are soon taken away on a train to the Capital. Once there, they are given mentors and stylists, train for the games, and are interviewed by Caesar Flickerman along with the other 22 tributes. The children have only a few days to prepare before they are sent into the arena and have to kill each other, as there can only be one winner of the Hunger Games. In this blog post, I will be looking at how the relationships between Katniss and two other characters are affected by the change from book to film.
Since they are the main characters of the story, I will start with Katniss and Peeta’s relationship. Katniss is not a very trusting person, and this is shown by her reactions to the people around her. She tends to be standoffish or down right hostile, especially with people she doesn’t know or in situations she is uncomfortable in. In the beginning, she sees Peeta as a threat because he is a competitor, but Katniss is also conflicted because of how naturally nice he is. In the book, which is in the first-person point of view, the reader gets Katniss’s thoughts which help us understand why she is so untrusting. This is also why she is unsure of Peeta, but there are times when Katniss wants to trust him because when she was starving he gave her bread. Throughout the film, they often have flashbacks to important moments in Katniss’s life, giving context to the story, one of which shows Peeta throwing her the bread. I think this was a good choice by the filmmakers because it establishes a past between the two and helps the viewer and Katniss trust Peeta, even if she is reluctant to.
The two characters are also love interests, but not in a conventional way. Peeta reveals in his interview with Caesar Flickerman that he has a crush on Katniss, which makes her even more suspicious of her fellow tribute. She thinks he is just playing up the angle of unrequited love for the game viewers. In the book, it is made clear that Katniss doesn’t have feelings for Peeta but is willing to play along so they can win the games after the gamemakers revise the rules so two people can win. It isn’t until the middle of the games that Katniss starts developing feelings for Peeta and realizes that he might have been telling the truth about liking her. After winning the games, Katniss is confused, not understanding if she really likes Peeta and if the feelings between them are real, so she keeps acting up their relationship to make sure the Capital believes they are in love. On their way back to District 12, when talking to Peeta, she realizes it wasn’t an act for him when he gets mad about her telling him how they have to be careful because the Capital officials are still watching them. The film plays all of this a bit differently because though we know at the beginning that Katniss doesn’t like Peeta, nothing is making the audience think that his feelings are an act for the games, mostly because there are none of her internal monologues. Also, it is never established if Peeta knows that Katniss was faking how strong her feelings were about him or if she was just acting and didn’t actually like him. He just accepts that they have to act up their relationship for the crowd, with the last scene showing them to have gone back to being uncomfortable around each other. Though each ending’s tone is different, they both still manage to convey the wrongness in their relationship that can only be fixed by Katniss understanding her feelings about Peeta, which she isn’t willing to do at the end of either version of the story.
Another important relationship in the story is the one between Katniss and her mentor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson). The book portrays the relationship between them as almost like they are the same person. The two think the same way, are both antisocial and are generally hard to be around, though for Katniss, it is because of her violent tendencies and for Haymitch, his PTSD enhanced by alcoholism. Whenever Katniss is having a hard time during the games, like when she is dehydrated and looking for a water source, she always thinks about why Haymitch isn’t helping her by sending gifts. She realizes, though, if he doesn’t send her aid, it is usually because whatever is wrong has a solution that she can deal with. When she was dehydrated, Katniss couldn’t figure out why Haymitch was letting her die. Rationally she knew that he wouldn’t do that, which caused her to keep moving forward in the direction she was already going and eventually found a river. When Katniss is with Peeta, she kisses him and right afterward, they are gifted broth to feed Peeta, who is sick. Even though there is no note, Katniss realizes that Haymitch is telling her that the more she plays up the romance, the more gifts he is willing to send her.
The film has to portray their relationship a bit differently because of the lack of internal monologue. The gifts in the movie all come with little notes from Haymitch, keying her in on what he wants her to do. With the broth, the note keys Katniss and the audience in on Haymitch wanting her to go further with the fake relationship. Their relationship is enhanced more at the end when Haymitch tells Katniss she has to be careful about how she acts after winning the games. His actions show that he has grown to care about Katniss, and is attempting to still mentor her even after she wins in order to keep her alive. Haymitch isn’t shown doing this with Peeta, who he is also responsible for, which is meant to show the clear favoritism he has for Katniss. This favoritism is meant to show the contraction they have, like in the books, and how Haymitch sees how similar Katniss is to him. Making them the decision-makers in the group, whereas Peeta is never fully aware of how in trouble they are because of how the games ended.
While writing this blog post, I encountered some of the same difficulties that I had in writing my Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone blog. I thought the film’s adaption of The Hunger Games characters and overall plot to be remarkably similar to that of Collin’s original book. This created a problem for me because oftentimes, I like to focus on specific characters and their personalities and plot changes. Instead, I was forced to go outside my normal outline to find something that I thought would be interesting to examine. That is when I realized just how important Katniss’s point of view was in understanding the relationships in the book. Even if she isn’t necessarily a relatable narrator, the reader can trust Katniss’s personality, which helps to understand why she acts in certain ways. Meaning though the reader might not get the bigger picture, Katniss will be analyzing a situation from as many perspectives as are available to her. This is why it is so easy to understand the motivations of characters like Haymitch, Cato and Thresh in the story because even though we don’t get through points of view each mirror Katniss in some way. But it’s hard to understand characters like Peeta, Effie, and even Cinna because their mindsets are completely different from Katniss, which usually makes her uncomfortable. This is why I thought talking about Katniss, and her relationship with other characters would be an interesting topic outside of what I usually do in my blogs.
— Jo Spangler, Film blogger.
Jo Spangler is a junior at Lewis University, majoring in English Literature and Language with a minor in Creative Writing. She is a writing tutor in the Lewis Writing Center and a Youth Enrichment Aide for the YMCA. In her free time, Jo enjoys reading, writing, listening to music, and watching movies. She has been to 10 countries outside the United States, including England, Italy, Turkey, and Austria. One of Jo’s favorite book series is The All Souls Trilogy, by Deborah Harkness, because of how she mixes the supernatural with history and the focus on character development. In the future, she hopes to go into the publishing industry to help find new and exciting books for people to read.