Fans of the Hunger Games franchise are just over a year away from the expected November 2023 release date for the prequel movie, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. The film, based on the book by author Suzanne Collins, will follow President Coriolanus Snow through his teen years, including the start of the Hunger Games.
Like all book-to-screen adaptations, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is sure to differ from its subject matter. Typically, movie characters are simplified to save time, and new roles can even be added to help complement existing ones. This can certainly be said for the Hunger Games movies, whose characters underwent several changes to fit a screen audience better. The film improved characters like Plutarch Heavensbee and Effie Trinket since they were portrayed as far less clueless than their book counterparts. However, in the case of characters like Johanna Mason, Greasy Sae, or even Katniss Everdeen, the versions of their personalities that were translated to the screen couldn’t stack up to that of Collin’s novels.
10/10 Johanna Mason
When Johanna and Katniss first met, they did not hit it off. This was perfectly captured in the cringy Catching Fire scene where Johanna strips to nakedness in front of her or in the Games, where they fought tooth and nail. But that is pretty much where their relationship was left. Johanna might have had moments of subtle comradery, but Katniss always hated her.
In the book, Johanna’s character is far more complex, ultimately affecting her relationship with Katniss. The two wound up in the hospital together in District 13 in Mockingjay, and the Girl on Fire learned that Johanna had the same anger and drive that she did. The District 7 victor even revealed her vulnerable side to Katniss, breaking down about how much she misses home.
9/10 Finnick Odair
Like Johanna, Finnick Odair was another victor that Katniss misread when she first met him. She had to learn the lesson that nothing was as it seemed in the Capitol, and even the most beloved victors were still slaves. Finnick was the prime example. He seemed vain and unfeeling, but really, he was sensitive and intelligent.
Of course, the books took Finnick’s depth even further. Katniss learned that her judgment that Finnick enjoyed keeping a string of Capitol citizens as lovers could not be more wrong. Instead, Finnick’s body was being sold by President Snow to the highest bidder. This, of course, had a profound impact on Finnick’s mental well-being— he had suffered just as much as Katniss, if not more.
8/10 Primrose Everdeen
When Katniss was unsure of what to do in the Hunger Games books, she often snuggled up with her sister to take advice. There were several scenes like this included in the movies, some of which were not even in the books, but there still seemed to be a change in Primrose’s personality.
While Prim starts fearful in The Hunger Games, watching her sister come so close to death for her sake greatly changes her resolve. However, the films showed this as a hardening. Prim became almost like Katniss in the movie, but in the books, she remained sweet, even as her bravery grew. Katniss’ sister was remarkable in that she had the strength of hardship but the gentleness of innocence.
7/10 Katniss’ Father
Mr. Everdeen had been dead for four years by the start of both the Hunger Games book and movie. The film only showed a small memory of Katniss’ father going into the mine and then a symbolic scene of their home exploding. Ultimately, that was the extent of his role in Katniss’ movie story.
However, throughout all three books, Mr. Everdeen remained an important figure in Katniss’ memory. He had been a kind, optimistic man who not only taught Katniss how to hunt and recognize edible plants but how to sing (including the Hanging Tree song). The importance of this is expected again in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, where Mr. Everdeen’s songs come into play again.
6/10 Greasy Sae
Movie fans might not even recognize Greasy Sae’s name, but they might remember her face as the kindly older woman who gives Katniss her Mockingjay pin. Of course, Madge, the mayor’s daughter, had gifted the golden pin in the books. So, Greasy Sae’s only role in the movie was a complete invention.
In the book, the wisened woman played a much more prevalent part in Katniss’ life. She was a tough cook at the Hob who would often do business with Katniss and had started to keep a protective eye on her. In Mockingjay, Greasy Sae is the one who takes care of Katniss when she returns to District 12 and keeps her updated on what is going on with her loved ones around Panem.
In the Mockingjay book, Katniss judged Boggs as a blindly loyal soldier dedicated to President Coin. However, she later learned that Boggs cared deeply about doing what was right, whether that meant following orders or not. Eventually, he became very dear to Katniss, who had learned to trust him after he risked his life and job for her on several occasions.
In the movie, Boggs is an easily likable character, but his fatherly love for Katniss isn’t fully communicated to audiences. They recognize his dedication to protect her, especially when he died, but without Katniss’ inner dialogue and the unspoken moments between them, Boggs was ultimately unmemorable.
4/10 Haymitch Abernathy
While Boggs had a fatherly relationship in the books, this role was given to Haymitch in the movies. They might spit a little venom at each other from time to time, but Katniss’ mentor was still a shoulder she could cry on when things got tough.
This is certainly not the case for Haymitch in the books. He and Katniss cared for each other, but he was never tender with her. He was often angry, sarcastic, or downright mean, especially if he was drinking more heavily. Were this translated to the screen, Haymitch might have been entirely unlikeable. Still, this version of him is much more dynamic overall.
3/10 Gale Hawthorne
As part of the series’ central love triangle, Gale Hawthorne played an important role in all four Hunger Games movies. He was the brooding darkness to Peeta’s light, and his aggressive call to action was part of what inspired Katniss to go to war. He was a great character but still fairly flat compared to his book counterpart.
Book Gale was not always so solemn or mopey (though he certainly had his moments). Instead, Gale Hawthorne in The Hunger Games could be summed up by his playfulness. His jokes were often the only thing that could make Katniss smile. He didn’t wholly mind Peeta, once even saying that the baker’s son was difficult not to like. Unfortunately, Gale’s anger at the Capitol burned through his more positive qualities.
2/10 Peeta Mellark
In the book, Peeta stands out to Katniss for his goodness. Having spent so long just trying to survive, Katniss was used to an individualist society. So, when Peeta first appears and takes a beating to give her free bread, she is unsure what to think. Still, Peeta demonstrated that he was emotionally, mentally, and physically strong. He’s the gentle, charismatic giant.
While Peeta’s kindness translated to the screen, it was difficult not to see his character as weak. He didn’t survive the Hunger Games only due to Katniss; she survived because of him. But, the movies make it seem like Peeta is just a sweet, weakling whom Katniss must protect.
1/10 Katniss Everdeen
As the protagonist of the series and the one readers take the perspective of in the books, Katniss is the one that audiences get to know the most. She was a dynamic lead in that, from chapter one, she wasn’t completely likable. It is evident in The Hunger Games that Katniss is summed up entirely by survival. She loved her sister for her innocence but knew she completely lacked it herself. Killing was nothing if it meant living yourself.
Without Katniss’ inner dialogue, much of this was not communicated to movie audiences. So, the fact that Katniss suspected Peeta of trying to kill her from the moment his name was selected is never communicated. This made Katniss’s movie counterpart seem much kinder, more trusting, and, therefore, less interesting than in the book.
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