They left me Hungry…

So, when you’re queued up for tests involving sedation of any kind, it’s best to pick up a book you don’t care if you remember anything about. I’d read The Hunger Games back in September but had no great urge to read the sequels, but low and behold you could borrow them for free on the Kindle and I didn’t care about whether I remembered them or not. They foot the bill perfectly.

It took a grand total of three days to read the second two books, and that was around hospitals and work. So, I think I estimated that I spent five hours on each one. They were diverting and entertaining, but I think that’s about the best that can be said for them. Here’s why (SPOILERS TO FOLLOW):

Katniss is just a tool. Yes, she can be badass when she wants to. No, I would never be able to accomplish the feats of willpower and strength that she does. HOWEVER. In the second and third books she is constantly being manipulated, kept out of the loop, and is, in essence, a pawn for both sides of the revolution, regardless of the fact that District 13 keeps pretending she’s their queen. She’s not. And by the time you reach the end of the third book, she’s no longer even an active participant in anything. It’s not her who breaks down the stronghold, she just gets to watch her sister die. It’s not her who catches and kills President Snow. She’s around, but what she does makes no actual difference to the revolution. In fact, President Coin keeps trying to off her because she thinks the Mockingjay would make a better martyr than figurehead.

And so, at the end, we’re left with a broken and ineffectual girl who, when they try one more time to use her–this time as Snow’s executioner–who finally makes a difference and kills the harpy Coin instead. The one decent act Katniss was given in the entire latter half of the third book.

I spent a lot of time asking myself if I would have made different choices as a writer and what the choices that Collins made actually did for the characters and the story. In The Hunger Games, I feel like the author actually did make the best choices for story and character. Katniss, while being played by her sponsors and the government, was still and active character making a difference in her world. Collins strips this away from her towards the end of the trilogy and I found that extremely disappointing. I probably would have decided to make her the damn hero and sure as hell wouldn’t have killed her sister. The only point that had was to make her choose one boy over another and it just ended up feeling contrived.

All that being said, I will definitely make the case that I would prefer to have children reading these books over Twilight ANY day. They’re bloody and vicious, but are very well written at a sentence, paragraph, character arc, cultural enrichment level. I may dislike what Collins did with Katniss’s character, but I still think she was on to something with all of this. Maybe not quite as strong as Harry Potter, but definitely in the running for good books for young adults to read.

As for the movie? It did a pretty good job sticking to the first book, except for cutting a few unnecessary characters and having one riot too early. Otherwise, my only complaint was that Peeta wasn’t hot enough. Especially if she ends up choosing him in the end…

A sign at a theater saying, "Due to limited ticket availability, guests will be chosen at random to fight to the death in our area."

Dragon Tattoo Book vs. Movie vs. Movie

A phenomenon swept the nation a while ago–a fascination with the works of Stieg Larsson in the form of a spunky young woman named Elsbeth and Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist and researcher. Now, I avoided them for a long time because they just didn’t sound like my cup of tea. I finally gave in and read the first two pretty much only for market research (and only because someone lent them to me in paperback and I had a holiday weekend with nothing better to do).

While the plot itself is interesting and engaging, the book is a soap opera with a lot of extraneous details and characters that Larsson could very well do away with and halve the length of the book to no ill effect. But his characters are well rounded and engaging and the plot well structured. So, all in all, and enjoyable diversion but not enough so for me to actually track down the third book.

And then something interesting happened. Because it was a book published originally in Sweden, they actually got first crack at a movie adaptation. Once it had migrated over here and I could get a copy that had been dubbed (Netflix instant play totally failed me on that end), I happily sat down to watch. Of course, it had been a while since I had read the books and so I had forgotten just how violent and disturbing certain rape scenes were.


I found it very interesting how the adaptation handled these and other aspects of the novel. Most of it was verbatim, with a lot of the extraneous details gone because they just weren’t necessary in the first place, but the heterosexual rape scenes were violent. And I’m not talking a little violent, I’m talking “Oh, god, I think I’m going to have to skip this scene” violent. I’m not THAT squeamish, unless there’s a lot of viscera flying around, so this is unusual for me. A male roommate of mine who had sat down to watch promptly bailed and never came back. And the second one was no better. They were true to the book, I was just unprepared for them to not pull any punches and just go for it in those scenes.

But, at the climax of the movie, Mikael ends up in the dungeon of the bad guy and the book becomes very homoerotic, with overtones of rape. Mikael is strung up, in his birthday suit, while the baddie tries to decide what to do with him because he’s “never had a man down here before.” But in the Swedish movie, every last homoerotic overtones were completely gone. Just *pft* gone. My brain immediately started saying, “So, it’s okay to show a woman get horribly raped, and then her getting her brutal revenge, but you can’t even show the suggestion of man on man rape? Interesting.” I’m not sure if it’s a cultural thing, or what, but it just struck me as odd that it was okay when it was heterosexual, but not homosexual.

And then the movie made another change that I just plain didn’t like. In the book, Lisbeth chases the bad guy out, he gets in his car and speeds away and she gets on her bike. As the high-speed chase commences, they zig zag along until the baddie commits suicide by ramming a truck head on. Dead bad guy. In the Swedish film, he accidentally runs off the road, she climbs down the embankment, and he begs her to help him out of the mangled car. Instead, she very calmly lights up the car and walk away.

Now, this changes her personality and character development quite a bit. Yes, she has lit a person on fire before (with very good reason) but that is not her now. And yet, the movie makes the very deliberate move to have her kill the bad guy. While it sets up a nice little segue to the next story (titled The Girl Who Played With Fire) I think it took away some wonderful nuances to her character. It made her a bit too hard edged.

And now, a few years later, Hollywood just HAD to take a go at the film.

Now, I was very interested to see how the American version decided to handle the scenes that were changed for the Swedish film. They left out even more of the details of the novel (this time somewhat detrimentally. If you hadn’t read the book, there was no way you’d understand some of it.) But I was more interested in how it handled the rape scenes and the climax.

First, the heterosexual rape scenes  were just as graphic and disturbing as in the Swedish film. I almost thought for a moment that they might tone them down due to a cinematographic technique used but no…no.

But when you got to the climax in the dungeon, it struck some sort of balance between the book and the Swedish film. That really disturbing line about having a man in the dungeon is definitely there, and the baddie partially undress Mikael, but it’s not as complete a humiliation as there is in the book. Which I for one was kind of happy about as I really wasn’t up for seeing Daniel Craig’s junk flapping in the wind, but I kind of wish they had toned down the heterosexual rape scenes as well. But at least they didn’t skip over the homoerotic nature of that scene altogether.

And the death of our baddie was again a sort of middle ground. The man does not commit deliberate suicide, but nor does Lisbeth kill him. After he loses control and crashes, Lisbeth is completely intent on going up to the car and shooting him, but the car explodes before she can get there. I can do without the suicide, I was just happy that they didn’t pollute Lisbeth’s character with a deliberate murder. I do really like that they made her capable of it, but she doesn’t actually follow through on it.

Now, what could these differences tell us? Is it simply a matter of cultural differences? I wouldn’t think so, because the book sold incredibly well in both Sweden and the U.S. and that dungeon scene is very sexually charged. Is it just more acceptable to show on screen here than there? Or was it simply a matter of the person who did the adaptation?

I think the more important change was in Lisbeth’s characterization in the crash scene. Regardless of whether the guy dies by suicide or not, I think it’s vitally important to stay true to Lisbeth’s character that she NOT kill him. Ever other time she has been wronged in the book, she’s taken a rather harsh revenge, but she’s left them alive. And for her to make the change and deliberately kill this man was just too large a leap for the character.

Anyway, those are my thoughts, feel free to leave yours below as to why you think the differences exist from book to movie to movie…