Compare and contrast the second book with the film.
As I’ve said before, I do love the Hunger Games movies. The design of the world is beautiful, the story is streamlined and sticks to the book for the most part, and I have no major problems with the actors. I don’t count all of the differences in films adapted from books and I’m generally not disappointed in movies as long as they adhere to the main theme of the story.
But sometimes directors cut out things that I believe flesh out character, or in this case, the relationship between two characters. I understand that the movies cannot be as long in hours as the books are in pages and that some things need to be cut out, but there’s one missing piece in the Catching Fire movie that bugs me: the absence of Haymitch’s Games – or Haymitch in general, really.
He wasn’t much of a major character in the first book and movie, since his main function was to help out Katniss and Peeta behind the scenes. But in Catching Fire, his character is notably fleshed out into a victor who is sympathetic and wounded, and the uncaring, drunkardly attitude of the Haymitch we first meet suddenly makes sense. And, in a way, the younger version of Haymitch that we see in a flashback to his Games paints the future of Katniss herself in a horrific light. There are a number of similarities between Katniss and Haymitch that benefit our understanding of both:
They’re both rebels. Haymitch successfully uses his arena as a weapon to win his Games by throwing his axe at the forcefield over the cliff to take out the last player. This is obviously a great embarrassment to the Capitol, who never intended for their players to use the arena’s environment to their advantage. Katniss causes an even greater embarrassment when she pulls her trick with the berries at the end of her first Games.
They both cared for – and lost – someone in the Games. Haymitch and Maysilee Donner become allies early on, and while their relationship is not clear, Haymitch does care for her and tries to save her when she is attacked by the Capitol’s menacing birds. “He holds her hand while she dies,” Katniss describes in the book, “and all I can think of is Rue and how I was too late to save her, too.” (Catching Fire p. 201)
They’re both too snarky for their own good. Though Katniss does not exude confidence, she does acknowledge when she is better and smarter than other people. When Haymitch is asked about the other players during his interview, he comments, “They’ll still be one hundred percent as stupid as usual, so I figure my odds will be roughly the same.” (p. 197) Remind you of anyone? A sassy teenage archer, perhaps?
They are both survivors. Haymitch did not win his Games by chance. He saw through the Capitol’s facade immediately: “The beauty disorients many of the palyers, because when the gong sounds, most of them seem like they’re trying to wake from a dream. Not Haymitch, though. He’s at the Cornucopia, armed with weapons and a backpack of choice supplies. He heads for the woods before most of the others have stepped off their plates.” (p. 198) Katniss is equally disuaded by the “glory” that the Capitol promises its winning victor and all of the hype that surrounds the Games.
They are both broken. “Maybe it should be you,” I say matter-of-factly as I pull up a chair. “You hate life, anyway.”
“Very true,” says Haymitch. (p 177)
All of these similarities make it clear that Haymitch was once a fire just like Katniss, but eventually was beaten down to mere sparks, driven to alcohol and isolation for solace. Of course the director couldn’t have kept all these details in the movie. I would have been interested to see the director’s own condensed version of these motifs, however, because they would have given the audience a chilling picture of Katniss’s possible future, filled with just as much pain and lonliness as Haymitch’s present.