With all the talk about the upcoming Hunger Games movie, especially some people’s understandable nervousness over whether the story will be crushed under the heel of Hollywood conformity, I thought it would be a good idea to weigh in with my own optimism. And if you’re a person who knows me in real life, you probably just fell out of your chair. Because I’m not optimistic. Ever. In fact, I have a very strict policy on why pessimism is superior (every surprise is a pleasant one when you expect the worst), and movies are no exception. Of course, I can’t help getting excited about some. I admit I’m drooling to see The Hunger Games on a big screen. I LOVED the books (yes, the word love needed to be in all caps), and I’ll probably be the first person out of the theater who utters the words, “The book was way better.” But I want to look at why that’s not just inevitable, but also perfectly fine.
No matter what the story, the book is almost always better than the film. There is the rare anomaly, of course, which is usually because the film improved upon the actual plot. But as far as visuals, acting, special effects, set design, etc., nothing is going to quite measure up to a book you really loved. A lot of people will tell you this is due to the boundlessness of the human imagination, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. These days, any great special effects team is capable of creating just about anything you can imagine, and if a film is completely animated, even more is possible. Other people will mention that a book really gets into the characters’ heads and no film can do that. While there’s no denying that’s true, I think our capacity for empathy brings us pretty close to understanding what any reasonable character is going through.
I think the real reason the book is usually better is that every book has not one, but many authors. The writer is just a guide. The readers are the architects of the world, characters, music, everything. Every book you read, you build to your preference, as long as you’re given room to do so. So it is perfect for you, and no filmmaker is going to be able to match that. They are building their story for a wide audience, not just you. In seeing any film version of a book you loved, you’re going to have to sacrifice the look you gave to your favorite character, the way a certain scene was laid out, or the choreography you carefully crafted.
But here’s the thing. I still enjoy watching someone else’s vision of a story I loved, even if they don’t see it in quite the same way I did. I think it’s amazing how two different people can be told the same story and see such incredibly different things. And unless The Hunger Games movie is nauseatingly bad, I know I’m going to enjoy experiencing another person’s vision of the books. If all I wanted was my own vision, I’d just read the books again.
In conclusion… check out this trailer! It is NOTHING like how I pictured it, and that makes it awesome.
Also, team Peeta FTW!
No, seriously. I think the only part of these books The Other Lamm didn’t like was how they compelled me to cry, “Peeta! You’re so damn cute, Peeta! Don’t DIE, Peeta! Peeeeeeetaaaaa!” every other page.