Directed by: Gary Ross, 2012
Pros: fantastic acting, faithful to the book, great costumes, both touching and brutal
Cons: too much unnecessary shaky cam
For Parents: no swearing, no sex, lots of violence in the last 3rd of the film (though there's little blood and most of the deaths occur offstage, you do see a few of the tributes kill each other)
The Hunger Games is a faithful adaptation of Suzanne Collins' popular dystopian YA novel of the same name. Katniss Everdeen is chosen as one of two District 12 tributes to fight to the death in the 74th Hunger Games, a televised sport spectacular used to punish the 12 Districts for rising against the Capitol years before.
Katniss has hunting skills and is desperate to return to her beloved little sister, but there are 23 other tributes, some of whom have trained for the games all their lives. And her people skills, important to garnering support and help during the games, are vastly underdeveloped.
I was a little worried by Woody Harrelson's casting as Haymitch (I still see him as the 'boy next door' from Cheers, and had trouble picturing him as a drunk), but thought he - and the other actors - did an amazing job. Jennifer Lawrence, who played Katniss, was especially good, showing apathy, fear, determination and finally the desire to game the system and give the audience what they wanted in hopes of surviving to the end. Indeed, though brutal at times, the film managed to also portray the tragedies associated with the games (watching the reactions of kids forced to kill other kids and sorrow over certain deaths) without overdoing it.
The special effects were good - contrasting the poverty of District 12 with the opulence and technology of the Capitol. And the costumes, especially the flaming outfits, were spectacular.
I appreciated the few minor additions to the story - scenes not from Katniss's POV, and therefore not in the book - that helped flesh out the world a bit more.
My only real complaint was with the amount of shaky cam/hand held camera usage at the beginning of the film. There were times when the effect was used to show scenes from Katniss's POV, which were well done. But there was also a lot of unnecessarily blurry shots of Katniss running and people milling around. Thankfully, as the action increased towards the end of the film this became less and less noticeable.
If you haven't read the books you'll have no problem following the story. Everything you need to know is explained, though people who have read the book will get more out of the scenery/costumes, etc..
***** Spoiler Area *****
I was disappointed that the scene where Rue's district sends a parachute to Katniss was cut, but appreciated the scene they replaced it with.
I also thought the scene with the berries at the end was cut short. In the book the pair have the berries in their mouths before the games are called off. I didn't believe the Capitol would accept anything less than the pair having the berries in their mouths, considering the stakes involved for those running the Games.
The game masters also have more specialized control of the arena in the movie. For example, they specify what tree will fall when expanding the forest fire and send fire blasts at Katniss. My husband pointed out that this would invalidate the betting that went on as to which tribute would win. If the people running the games can target and kill specific players, then what's the point of betting that a particular player can outsmart/kill the others?