What I liked:
I appreciate how the filmmakers balanced what could and what couldn’t be done. Some elements of the book would be a cinematic challenge and instead of trying to pull something off with cheesy CGI effects they chose the path of caution and omission. I would rather not see something my imagination concocted while reading a beloved book then see it cheesily (is that a word?) rendered on-screen.
The cast was fantastic, there wasn’t a single character that I found to be out-of-place and the acting was fluid and sound. Jennifer Lawrence triumphed in the lead role of Katniss Everdeen, one of the more complex literary characters I’ve ever read in young adult fiction. She was able to capture Katniss’ resolve and courage without making her come across as a “bad ass.” Other noteworthy performances: Elizabeth Banks as Effie, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, and Lenny Kravitz as Cinna. All three roles were executed beautifully by these actors and were true to their literary forms.
Finally, SPOILER ALERT
I enjoyed how the film took the audience behind the scenes of the operation behind the Hunger Games. Seneca Crane, played by Wes Bentley, the overseer of the games was a more prominent character in the film than the book and this suited me. Perhaps it’s because I am a producer but I loved to see how the Game Changers manipulated the arena and it’s inhabitants by pushing buttons and monitoring movements. It fascinated me and was an element that the book never delves into (because it is told from Katniss’ perspective).
What I didn’t like:
Despite the appreciation I mention above, I have to say the muttations (weird-looking dogs) at the end of the film were disappointing as the hunger games reached their bloody climax. I also didn’t like how the film spent so much time prepping for the arena and then zipped through Katniss and Peeta’s experience in the games once the announcement was made that two victors would be crowned if they were from the same district. I don’t feel the film really developed their relationship enough to carry over effectively in the next film – where the real fun begins. Finally, the camera work throughout the film was jumpy in a lot of places that “broke the spell” of the plot for me several times, most notably at the end when Cato, Peeta, and Katniss are battling atop the cornucopia. I couldn’t figure out who was hitting who, with what, from where?! Boo.
Haymitch – what can I say? I love a sarcastic, troubled character that brings humor to awkward scenes. Woody Harrelson was a natural choice for this role and he struck a great balance between being irritating and someone you want to hang out with socially. There is an underlying story to Haymitch and Harrelson left the audience wanting to see and know more about his past and the time he spent in the arena.
Peeta Mellark: You’re our mentor! You’re supposed to help us get sponsors, give us advice.
Haymitch Abernathy: Okay. Accept the probability of your imminent death and know, in your heart, there is nothing I can do to save you.
Katniss Everdeen: But if that’s true, then why are you here?
Haymitch Abernathy: The refreshments.
The Hunger Games did a wonderful job of making one feel uncomfortable and disturbed about kids killing kids without being exploitative or gross. I suggest you read the book first (the entire trilogy took me less than a week to finish) and head to the nearest theater to experience this film.