So, I wrote about my feelings on most of The Hunger Games movie yesterday, but of course I left out one of, if not the, most important parts of the movie: Peeta and Katniss, and Peeta and Gale, and how the movie showed us Katniss’ emotional journey through their relationships.
First, I’d like to give the floor to Bestie Danielle, the Team Gale beat reporter for this here blog, for her analysis of how the movie did, or didn’t do right by Mr. Hawthorne.
As a hardcore member of Team Gale, I thought it was hilarious when the castings were first announced:
- I mean really.
But then I saw the movie. Unfortunately, Movie Gale let this gal down pretty hard. For anyone still on the fence about this love triangle, please do not let Movie Gale sway you towards Peeta. Book Gale is way, way better than Movie Gale.
Book Gale is a rugged, manly, hunter. He and Katniss lost their dads in the same accident, and both turned to illegal hunting to provide for their families. Book Gale understands Katniss because their lives and hardships have been so similar. Meanwhile, Movie Gale talks about his feelings and follows Katniss around while she acts like a badass. Movie Gale doesn’t hunt. He is Katniss’ hunting poodle who is afraid to ruin his manicure, let alone kill something.
Book Gale is angry. In a totally hot way! Both Book Gale and Movie Gale complain about the Capitol a lot. Book Gale complained in an angry, ranting way. Movie Gale mopes in a field, painting his nails, and ponders whether or not vests have become too mainstream.
- Gale is sad.
It’s always interesting to see a first person narrative be transferred to film. But unfortunately, the way we got to see Gale’s heartbreak was a montage of mopey, forlorn looks.
Book Gale was super hot. Let’s face it: part of Gale’s appeal is that he is smokin’ hot. He’s literally tall, dark, and handsome. In Mockingjay, Johanna takes one look at Gale and is like, “hot DAMN!” He’s an athletic, tough-as-nails mountain man hunter who all the girls in school have a crush on. Unfortunately for Movie Gale, he has a much hotter older brother, Thor. A much hotter brother that we all got to meet first (in Thor and the Snow White and the Huntsman preview.) Movie Gale is kind of like the Eli to Thor’s Peyton Manning.
I also think I would have been far more attracted to Movie Gale if he wasn’t such a mouth breather.
Seriously. Look at that. There is nothing hot about a mouth breather.
On a positive note, the most important part about the Katniss-Gale relationship is that she trusts him, and she trusts him with the most important thing to her – Prim’s life. This translated well in the movie anytime we saw Movie Gale interact with Prim. Movie Gale grabbing a distraught Prim at the reaping was pretty perfect, and Prim sitting on Movie Gale’s shoulders at the end was a great visual representation of what Gale means to Katniss.
As another positive thing, I am down with the fact that they didn’t touch too much on the romantic possibilities between Katniss and Gale. I think it’s important (like Erin said in her guest post on love trianges) that viewers understand that this trilogy is not about a love triangle, and Katniss doesn’t really give a shit about what boys are in love with her. Since Book Gale plays a more active role the second and third books, hopefully Movie Gale mans up a bit and gets way more awesome in the next two movies!
And hopefully, he closes his mouth more.
(Thanks Danielle! And I solemnly swear I did not alter or misrepresent Danielle’s feelings in any way. She really, really doesn’t like mouth breathers.)
Okay, now it’s my turn!
- Dreaminess factor: achieved
Alright, Let’s discuss Peeta. Poor handsome, wildly-talented Josh Hutcherson has been put up to an impossible fangirl standard with this role. I get that. I do. And overall, I’d say he really got it. I like him as Peeta—but I felt that movie Peeta was softened from the complex character in the books. One of my YA Highway cohorts described Josh, and the Katniss-Peeta ro(faux?)mance as “dopey”—and in some ways I agree.
It isn’t Josh’s fault, at least not entirely; the script stole some of the best, most defining Peeta moments from him. For example, instead of showing Peeta slapping a Bloody Mary out of Haymitch’s hand the first day on the train, the movie cut right to Katniss’ table-knifing. Shortly after, Peeta is shown waving giddily to the Capitol crowd gathered around their train. Not a cunning line on Josh’s slightly doughy (I COULD NOT RESIST) face, with only Haymitch to suggest, “He really gets it.” In the book, when the crowds have gone, we get to see Peeta himself reveal that there’s a cynic (and a serious Game strategist) within:
He sees me staring at him and shrugs. “Who knows?” he says. “One of them may be rich.”
(The Hunger Games, p.60)
Peeta is playing the game. Not only is he playing it, he pulls into the lead the minute he tells the Capitol audience, “she came here with me.” In the movie, Peeta does establish the star-crossed lover ruse, but they slowly flatten him out in the arena until it’s impossible to tell that he’s still a clever competitor. It starts out well (how interesting was it to learn that Peeta bypassed any Cornucopia supplies and headed right for the woods? That was a nice benefit of not being restricted to Katniss’ perspective) with Peeta clearly uneasy in the pack of careers. But after he shoos Katniss off to recover safely from her tracker jacker stings, there’s nary a hint of Peeta being self-aware of their love game, or of their Panem audience. Conversely, in the book, after Katniss finds Peeta camouflaged by the river and she begins to move him to the cave:
“Lean down a minute first,” he says. “Need to tell you something.” I lean over and put my good ear to his lips, which tickle as he whispers. “Remember, we’re madly in love, so it’s all right to kiss me anytime you feel like it.”
Clever and cheeky and completely “Team”-worthy. The movie, in my opinion, fails to show that Peeta remains aware of and savvy about the gamesmanship in the arena in and after the cave scene. The audience sees Katniss get helpful Haymitch notes (“You call that a kiss?”) so we know she had tactics on the mind when she leans in for her “shut up and go to sleep so I can get your medicine” lip-lock. But we get no hint, physically or verbally, not even so much as a wink, to suggest Peeta (though no doubt harboring real feelings for Katniss) is interested in hyping up and selling their romance, too.
- Art by Noelle Stevenson – click for source
The reason that bothers me so much is, I thought the movie did a decent job of condensing the lovey dovey bits (there wasn’t exactly room in this 2.5-hour sprint to spend three days lounging in a cave) and making the extent of Katniss and Peeta’s genuine feelings for one another clear. When Katniss returns from retrieving Peeta’s medicine at the Cornucopia, they shared a very real moment. Forget the kiss—that moment of charged lingering was exactly perfect. That was so necessary, because having such a brief, honest moment put the constructed, calculated world of the games in relief.
And besides the brilliantly-done interview with Caesar (God love Stanley Tucci, he was perfection on toast), Josh rarely got the chance to show that Peeta really does have a self-deprecating sense of humor. (Okay, the “I’ll take the arrow. … Just kidding!“ moment was pretty good, too.) Peeta’s brains and Seth Cohen-like sense of humor are the entire reason for Team Peeta. But it isn’t only the quips that I missed, it was how they showed that Peeta and Katniss were equals. Because in the books, Peeta’s jokes are often sarcastic comments on things that Katniss does. He has genuine feelings for her, which grow into love, but Peeta does not think Katniss is perfect. Far from it. For instance, we missed out on this little gem from training, when Peeta gets all camouflage-artistic and credits his years of frosting cakes (RESISTING JOKE SO HARD):
“It’s lovely. If only you could frost someone to death,” I say.
“Don’t be so superior. You can never tell what you’ll find in the arena. Say it’s actually a giant cake—” begins Peeta.
“Say we move on,” I break in.
(The Hunger Games, p. 96)
It disappointed me because I had hoped since the movie was a break from Katniss’ point of view, it would take advantage of it to show Peeta as a more well-rounded character overall, not simply the object of Katniss’ schizophrenic love/hate. But, by flattening Peeta’s complexity toward the end of the movie, our final impression of Peeta is that he’s a love-addled victor whose next big challenge is prying Katniss away from Gale.
- It’s only a flesh wound
Finally, a HUGE part of my critique on Peeta’s loss of complexity has to do with the decision to magically heal his leg wound in the cave. For those of you who don’t remember, in the book Peeta’s leg gets better, but only enough for him to run from the muttations. By the time Cato’s slowly dying and the problem of the berries presents itself, Peeta’s losing blood and doesn’t have much time left. When K & P are lifted into the hovercraft, the book gives us one of its compelling, and telling, moments: Katniss, feral and desperate, banging her fists against the glass wall separating her from Peeta and the swarm of doctors who restart his heart, twice. Not only does Peeta’s Magical Leg-Healing Moment rob us of additional tension at the end of the movie, and a glimpse into how Katniss truly feels for him, it also takes away a pivotal mark of how the Games have a lasting affect on his character. For more on that subject I want to direct you to this excellent article on the topic from Tiger Beatdown. An excerpt:
Peeta, like other characters, is scarred by the world he lives in, and he bears a visible mark of the cruelty and brutality of Panem, but more importantly, he’s another person trying to survive and build a better world. By neatly cutting that entire plotline away, the filmmakers avoided some tangled and thorny issues.
S. E. Smith, So, How About Those Hunger Games
And if there’s anything you can count on The Hunger Games books for—especially as the series progress—is tangled and thorny issues. I’m interested to see how the films address (or don’t) that in the future.
WELL! I have been exceedingly long-winded, and I apologize for that. But I want to know what you think!! Did the movie live up to your expectations for Peeta/Gale? Disappoint? What do you hope they show in the next two movies?