My husband and I watched The Hunger Games a couple of weeks after its premier, cashing in on a free babysitting opportunity (no midnight showings for these old fogies). Watching a movie adaptation as a book-lover is always tough. Initially, I want to see the world I’ve imagined come to life on the screen. However, as most book-lovers, I almost always leave deflated. Because (let’s be honest) even with Hollywood’s expensive cameras and glossy starlets and fancy computer animation, most directors can’t compete with the power of the human brain.
I must say this about book-lovers though: We like to attend movies, and at the end say to our illiterate friends, “The book is so much better.” We give ourselves moral superiority, offering this declaration to prove (undoubtedly), “If you loved to read as much as I did, you would enjoy life so much more. Also, I’m better than you.” Most of us don’t mean to come across as a public service announcement for NBC’s “The More You Know,” but you know we do.
Here are some helpful hints to attend book-to-screen films, enjoy the experience, and not make our friends feel like intellectual sloths:
1. Keep eye-rollage to a minimum: Your friends will see it. Try not to couple the eye-rollage with audible sighing, groaning, or doing that tsk thing with your tongue. Restrain yourself by stuffing fistfuls of popcorn in your mouth or a Junior Mint (“It’s chocolate. It’s peppermint. It’s delicious…It’s very refreshing!”)
2. Keep your mouth shut: Don’t feel the need to fill in the gaps, especially during the movie. Your friends especially hate when you stage-whisper details during key plot moments of the film. “You see Cinna actually CHOSE to be the stylist for District 12. That’s important because before this Hunger Games, District 12 was always an embarrassment. They would dress them up as slutty coal miners before Cinna.”
3. Nitpicking is not flattering: Most of the time your buddies stomach your book-geek obsessiveness with loving tolerance. They even see your monologues on a book’s awesomeness as endearing and cute in a quirky way. However, this all stops at the movies, especially if you spend the entire drive home obsessing over the details. Friendly advice: don’t bring a notebook to keep a running list of mistakes or worse, a dog-eared paperback of the novel to use as a reference, reading specific passages to prove your point on the way home.
4. Keep head shots of actors who SHOULD be the main characters at home: Sometimes (most of the time) the actors on screen don’t pull off the personality you picture from the book. For the most part, I think the actors of The Hunger Games were spot on.
5. Remember films and books are different mediums: Books and movies use different elements to tell a good story. Films can cut back and forth to keep the story moving, and when done correctly, this adds to the pace and scope of the narrative. A book holds its strength in the narrator (jumping back and forth with narrative in a book tends to be disjointing and, typically, reflects weakness in the writing). For instance, in The Hunger Games, the novel does not reveal the control room, delivering horrific revelations for Katniss, Peeta, and the other tributes. However, the film cuts back and forth from the games to the control room, which I thought was a great move in contrasting the reality of the games and the distorted culture of The Capitol. As long as the film keeps the flavor of the book, I’m usually satisfied.
For the record, I absolutely loved the movie adaptation, one of the best I’ve seen based on a book/series I loved. I’m sure having Suzanne Collins on the screen writing crew helped this transition.
What advice might you have for fellow book geeks attending the movies?