My writing reviews have been focused on fiction, but in this case I want to look at “The Hunger Games (Book 1)“, not so much the novel as the movie version. I read the book recently and then saw the movie this past weekend. As always there are the issues of discomfort over what is left out of the novel when it is turned into a movie, but for me in this case I wasn’t too concerned; the novel was borrowed so I speed-read the novel in 36 hours total time, less actual reading time when you deduct 8 hours for sleeping and 9 hours for work and so on, so my memory for the details was not precise to begin with.
But what was interesting to me was how the movie writers dealt with the second half of the novel. The second part is the competition itself and much of the time Katniss is alone in the forest. Because the novel remains in limited third person POV that means all that time alone is written from inside Katniss’s head. Presenting this as a movie means that you either introduce a pet for her to talk to constantly or you do voice overs of her thinking or you have a pretty boring section of movie. What the writers did instead was to add a number of scenes outside of limited third person; scenes with Haymitch talking up sponsors, with District 11 rioting, with Gale watching, with the head of the games in discussion with President Snow. Some of these incidents are clearly implied in the novel but are never shown because of the restriction of staying with limited third person. I thought that the choice was a good one.
It’s similar to “Brokeback Mountain”. I saw the movie before reading the short story that it was based on and I knew that the script writers were aware that they needed to add material in order to build a full length movie from a short story. They chose to add background material; events and stories and family members that could take place outside of the mountain to draw the characters more fully.
In both cases it’s not a matter of scenes that were missing from the novels. It’s a matter of specific situations that require or could use more story and how and where does this material come from? Is the story better with those changes? Maybe, maybe not. But what is important is that the movies work as movies with the addition of those materials. And my point is that, as a writer, there are many options and choices to make and here are two examples of two different versions of the same story using different options.