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How Catching Fire Changed Some of Its Source Material, For the Better!

How Catching Fire Changed Some of Its Source Material, For the Better!


Writing a screenplay for one of Hunger Games movies must be a little like being in the Hunger Games themselves. You’ve got to keep moving and only keep what you need to survive. In cinematic storytelling, this means you’ve got to be light-on-your-feet with narrative details, and keep the audience’s eyes on the screen and hand in their popcorn for at least two hours. A book is a personal relationship, and The Hungers Games trilogy is a particularly personal experience to many readers, if not just for it’s awesome story, but also the simple fact that Katniss speaks right to us.

Big Spoilers the novel Catching Fire and the film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire ahead!

But, in a film, Katniss can’t speak directly to us, meaning the story has to be framed differently. How did the film version of Catching Fire manage to keep us with Katniss, but turn this story into a great movie too? By cutting some stuff! Here are five things from the Catching Fire book which the film ditched and/or changed in favor of cinematic survival.

5. The People Katniss Meets in the Woods from District 8

There’s a whole scene where Katniss is hanging out, despondant in the woods and meets Bonnie and Twill, survivors from one of the districts which is in total uprising mode. It’s touching and awesome, but those character interactions don’t return. If you’ve got character stuff that is underdeveloped, it often makes sense to cut it.

4. Peeta’s career as an Artist                     

A good section of the novel focuses on the Victory Tour itself, with Katniss and Peeta having to show off their talents. Katniss’s talent is complaining and pretending to design clothes, while Peete’s is painting. He paints a bunch of scary stuff from the games. How could this have been given justice on film? It couldn’t have. So it’s not there.

3. Gale Being Hurt For Longer

In the book, after his public wiping, Gale is laid up in the Everdeen house for much longer than he is in the film. There’s a lot of Katniss-being-mad-at-everyone-stuff in these scenes, which are mercifully made shorter. It’s not that they don’t’ work in the book, they totally do! It’s just that in a film, you’ve got to remember we’re watching the main character, not listening to her tell us a story. So different, and Catching Fire—the film—handles this perfectly with this one little change.

2. The Revolution is Made a Much Bigger Deal, Much More Quickly

During the Victory Tour in the novel, a lot of the unrest is fairly subtle, with the exception, of course, of the man being killed from District 8. However, the film does a great job of making this unrest HUGE, really quickly. We see it on the people’s faces, and the Mockingjay graffiti is a nice touch.

1. Plutarch Heavensbee Being a Good Guy is Hinted At in Big Way

In the novel, the new gamemaker, who eventual is revealed to be in league with Haymitch and other good guys, comes across as a little cold. But in the film, with an awesome performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman, his contradictory nature is hinted at a little better. From his first dance with Katniss at the President’s mansion, to the final scene when he leaves the President all on his own as the power goes out, we have a feeling from the start that there’s more to this guy than meets-the-eye. This makes the eventual reveal in the film WAY more satisfying than in the book!

What other changes did you notice from book to movie with Catching Fire?

Tags: movies, the hunger games, ya novels, catching fire, reviews

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About the Author
Ryan Britt

Ryan Britt is the author of Luke Skywalker Can't Read and Other Geeky Truths, forthcoming from Plume (Penguin) Books on 11.24.15. He's written for The New York Times, Electric Literature, The Awl, VICE Motherboard, Clarkesworld Magazine, and is a consulting editor for Story Magazine. He lives in New York City.

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