In the film adaptation of The Hunger Games, why did they cut out most of Rue's lullaby—many people's favorite part—to add in an unnecessary uprising scene? It didn't convey the same emotion at all.
—Katherine C., via Facebook
When you say "they," you're including the very person who created Rue's lullaby in the first place. Director Gary Ross cowrote The Hunger Games script with Billy Ray and Suzanne Collins, who, of course, brought us the novels.
So why did Team Collins agree to ditch much of the song—along with other key elements—such as the Avox subplot—for the movie?
I've done some digging for you, and found out. Here are five changes from book to film and why they happened:
1. No more Avox subplot.
In The Hunger Games novel, Katniss and Gale encounter a runaway girl who later ends up at the Capitol, sans tongue. The Avox, as such poor victims are known, is later recognized by Katniss once she reaches the big city.
However, avoxes are practically invisible in the movie. Ross has said that the cut was all about pacing. "We didn't really have time to engage that subplot," Ross told Slashfilm. "I was actually sorry about that, but Suzanne [Collins] agreed. There was no way. And again, it's so important for the movie, because we are not writing in the first person the way the book is, it's so important for the movie never to step out of Kantiss's shoes. That digression would have done that in a way that it would have taken a long time to get the train on the tracks."
2. A very white Katniss.
Fans roared outrage when Ross chose blond Jennifer Lawrence to step into the role of a girl who is described as being olive-skinned, with dark hair. But Ross has said he saw no other actress who could embody the scrappy heroine. "After seeing Jen, if she hadn't done it, I'm not sure I would have done [the film], for real," Ross told Gannett. "I really didn't have a second choice in my head."
Collins echoes that sentiment. She told Entertainment Weekly that Lawrence was the "only one who truly captured the character I wrote in the book."
3. More behind-the-scenes action.
In the book, we spend plenty of time in the arena, but almost none inside the head of game-maker Seneca Crane or his boss, the dictator President Snow.
The big-screen version treats us to the high-tech gamer headquarters, and some chilling scenes between Snow (Donald Sutherland) and Crane (Wes Bentley). Ross explained to Slashfilm: "I'm really proud of the Donald scenes that contextualized the movie. I'm really proud of the idea that hope is a stronger agent of manipulation than fear is....I like how he talks about sort of the haves and have-nots...and that neo-colonial relationship is sort of articulated."
4. Less graphic violence.
Collins's novel is full of helpful description of how 22 kids die in the arena. The movie glosses over most of that, but Ross has insisted he still made exactly the movie he wanted to make. In the end, seven seconds of gore were cut so that distributor Lionsgate could present a PG-13 film. It was a smart decision; after all, the book was also aimed at young readers.
5. That riot in District 11.
In the book? No riots. In the movie? Quite a riot, one shot by Ross's friend Steven Soderbergh, in fact.
Ross explained to MTV: "I thought it was important that you begin to make the turn into [sequel] Catching Fire, that you see the seeds of the rebellion, you see what Katniss has caused," Ross said. "It's a change Suzanne loves. It's something that she's fully embraced as well, that you begin to see the incipient beginnings of this rebellion."
As for your lullaby question:
The song may have been cut down in the film, but a full rendition is included—sort of. Sting recorded "Deep in the Meadow" just for fans of the film. You can buy the single, or get it for free if you buy the full album, The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond.