compare and contrast

What Got Left Out of The Hunger Games Movie, and How Much It Mattered

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) in THE HUNGER GAMES.
Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth in The Hunger Games. Photo: Murray Close/Lions Gate Films Inc

If you were among the $155 million worth of people who faced Arena-like conditions to see The Hunger Games this weekend, then you’re probably more than a little familiar with (and perhaps protective of) the original Suzanne Collins book the movie was based on. Though the adaptation was fairly faithful, not every bit of the book made it into the movie; New York’s David Edelstein wrote about the adaptation’s “slick” violence and the overall absence of terror in the big-screen version, but there are smaller changes and exclusions as well. Below, Vulture has compiled a list of all the nitty-gritty differences between the book and movie Hunger Games, with a quick assessment of which omissions mattered and which didn’t. Feel free to add any that we’ve missed.

Katniss’s perspective: Hunger Games is written in the first person, meaning that our teenage heroine can explain her thoughts and motivations — along with her increasingly confused feelings about Peeta and Gale — in her own words. The movie (wisely, we thought) omits any voice-over narration, leaving the emoting to Jennifer Lawrence, and, for the most part, she handles it beautifully. But certain bits of information are lost: anecdotes about District life, facts about past Hunger Games, insights into Katniss’s strategy (did any non-readers wonder why on earth she decided to blow up all those supplies?), and crucially, the Peeta-Katniss showmance machinations.
How much it matters: The movie’s District scenes are bleak enough, and the added Gamemaker scenes help, but Katniss’s Peeta-Gale debate doesn’t really survive the jump to the big screen. (Those sad, handsome Gale flashbacks prove that he likes her, obviously, but there’s no indication that she’s thinking about Gale every time she kisses Peeta, as we find out in the book.) When Katniss kisses Peeta, it doesn’t look like a staged love affair — it looks like Katniss falling for Peeta. Which maybe she was, a little, but still! Some of those kisses were fake, and they’re gonna come back to haunt her.

Haymitch’s drunk pratfall and general meanness: At the book’s Reaping Ceremony (as the selection process for Tributes is known), former Games Winner Haymitch Abernathy rolls up completely drunk, falling onstage and looking like a total buffoon in front of the entire country of Panem. Though he sobers up later on in the book when he realizes Peeta and Katniss might actually have a chance at winning, he remains an incorrigible asshole to Katniss. In the movie, Haymitch doesn’t even attend the reaping ceremony, and while Woody Harrelson does pour booze into most every drink he holds, he doesn’t play Haymitch with nearly as much venom.
How much it matters: The Reaping Ceremony was plenty affecting without the drunk person spill, and Katniss has enough enemies in the Game Makers and the Tributes without needing Haymitch’s cruelty. It would have been nice to see her spar with Harrelson more (and then bond more with Lenny Kravitz’s Cinna as a result), but there are three more movies.

Madge and the Mockingjay pin: In the book, Katniss receives her gold mockingjay pin from Madge, the mayor’s daughter, who asks her to wear it into the arena as a symbol of their District. The pin’s significance is less clear in the movie, as Katniss just finds it among some trinkets at the market.
How much it matters: Without spoiling too much of books two and three, we’ll just say that the pin definitely has some District-related significance. Also, who will become Katniss’s friend and then possibly get too close to Gale? Discuss.

Avoxes: Katniss’s maid in the Capitol is a girl who was captured while trying to escape the Capitol*. (Katniss recognizes her because she was also in the forest outside District 12 when the girl was captured, and she feels guilty that she did nothing to help.) As punishment, the Capitol cut out the girl’s tongue and then forced her into a life of servitude as an Avox. None of this is in the movie.
How much it matters: The government’s brutality is fairly well established (kids are killing kids, after all), and Katniss has other opportunities to be sympathetic. But again, this is a chunk of terror that didn’t make it into the movie.

Eating: Long sections of the book are devoted to Katniss wolfing down the incredibly rich Capitol food, since she and the rest of her family (and District) have been starving their entire lives. The Hunger Games are so named because the Districts are being deliberately starved, in order to prevent further rebellion. And yet in the movie, food is barely discussed and no one is seen eating anything.
How much it matters: For all the washed-out coal miner shots and Gale speeches about sticking it to the man, the movie could have used a few more details about the everyday hardship of life in District 12. Or at least one lamb-stew reference. Where was the lamb stew?

The chariot hand-holding: Haymitch Cinna* instructs Book Peeta and Katniss to hold hands throughout the opening chariot ceremony, which highlights the fact that (for Katniss, at least) this is an arranged romance and a strategy to win the games. In the movie, Peeta grabs her hand unprompted.
How much it matters: Maybe it makes Katniss less complicit in the fake romance (or makes the romance seem less fake, at least from Peeta’s end), but it’s a small point.

The dehydration scene: In the book, Katniss spends the first two days in the Arena searching desperately for water, and she comes dangerously close to death by dehydration. In the movie, she finds water pretty much instantly.
How much it matters: It doesn’t, really. And as Katniss remarks at one point, watching people die from dehydration is not all that visually arresting.

Peeta intentionally killing someone: Post-cornucopia, when Peeta joins up with the Career tributes, he is sent back to “finish off” a girl who wasn’t quite killed by Cato’s enthusiastic spearing. In the movie, he’s just a tag-along.
How much it matters: Since the Peeta mind games are almost absent from the movie, it doesn’t factor into Katniss’s showmance calculations. Still, it’s another example of the movie pulling punches (or, in this case, kills).

District 11’s loaf of bread (and the revolts): Katniss mourns Rue’s death the same way in both the book and movie, but Rue’s home district responds very differently. In the book, they send her a loaf of bread in thanks; in the movie, they start revolting. (Later, we do learn that Katniss’s actions helped inspire a revolution, but in book one, she has no idea.)
How much it matters: It doesn’t; that scene was really moving, we thought.

The cave: Major chunks of the cave scene were cut from the movie, including a giant dinner (with lamb stew! again!) that is delivered in reward for a particularly enthusiastic kiss, and Katniss’s decision to give Peeta sleeping medicine so that she can go to the feast and retrieve his leg medicine.
How much it matters: The dinner exchange is another example of fake romance being trimmed from the movie — though Haymitch’s first pot of broth and accompanying note (“You call that a kiss?”) more or less brings the point home. The drugging doesn’t really matter, except that it proves what a no-nonsense, all-action kind of girl Katniss is.

The hybrid mutts: The 74th Hunger Games’ horrifying finale involves the release of giant mutt wolf-dogs who are genetically engineered with the eyes of the failed tributes. They spend the night feeding on Cato, the third-to-last tribute, while Peeta and Katniss huddle together on the Cornucopia and listen to him wail. In the movie, the creatures are stripped of their human likenesses, and Cato’s death is relatively brief.
How much it matters: It’s not as gruesome. Just like the movie.

* This post has been updated to reflect that it’s Cinna, not Haymitch, who instructs Katniss and Peeta to hold hands during the chariot ride, and that the main Avox was from the Capitol.

What Got Left Out of The Hunger Games Movie, and How Much It Mattered