I think director Gary Ross did an excellent job of turning Suzanne Collin's best selling Young Adult novel into an exciting and emotional film. All 2 hours and 22 minutes of it!
He worked with both the novelist Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray on the screenplay adaptation.
Going in, you have to know that Collin's premise of 24 young people being forced to sacrifice themselves for the good of their nation, fighting each other to the death, down to the last one standing as their countrymen watch, is at once violent and disturbing.
Note despite the fact that there are tributes as young as 11 or 12 playing for their lives, the book is Young Adult; the film is PG-13. IMHO, parental guidance in this case should steer you away from bringing all but the most mature 10 and 11 year olds. It's not the violence quite so much (Ross's shaky camera work helps to soften some of the impact of the kills because you can't quite seem them clearly) as it is the fear factor.
For me, a very grown woman, my strings were completely manipulated by the relationship between Katniss and her younger sister, Prim. When Katniss volunteers and Prim has to be held back screaming, I was utterly moved. When Katniss befriends the youngest tribute in the arena, Rue, it is hard not to think of Prim. Melodrama is barely avoided but it is avoided and when Rue dies and Katniss suffers, we do as well.
For a younger child this could be something of a traumatic nightmarish occurence. Think Bambi!
But kids aside, the movie moves. Ross has taken the action - so much of it that is just heard about in the book - and given it onscreen life. Scenes of the action in the control room as technicians play with the tribute's lives as though they were virtual chess pieces are juxtaposed with moments down in the arena as Katniss and Peeta fight to stay alive.
When one of the techinicians tells Seneca, the Hunger Games director, that Katniss is near the outer edge, 2 kilometres away from the rest of the action, he directs orders "Let's bring her back". And they create a fire and some frightening fireballs that have her running to a spot where she will have to engage with the rest of the group. Which of course makes for a much better show. Just like all the reality shows we're currently addicted to. Everyone wants to see them mix it up.
Of course Katniss, talented with her bow, never kills if she can help it. She's our hero therefore she is noble. Jennifer Lawrence, plays Katniss beautifully. The emotions that play across her features still softened with babyfat are at once real and authentic. She's strong - this is her games to win, her movie to be the star of. Josh Hutcherson as Peeta plays second fiddle as the goodlooking and sensitive bakery boy with a Katniss crush quite well while handsome Liam Hemsworth's Gale does little more than watch the star crossed lovers on the big screen. I hope his character has more to do than cast his eyes downward in Catching Fire the second in the series! I haven't read it yet.
MORE REVIEWS OF MOVIES BASED ON BOOKS
I could take or leave Elizabeth Banks as the very silly Effie Trinkets; the over the top costume, makeup and accent and zero character arc left me cold. None of which is Bank's fault, but I wonder why she bothered with the part. At the same time Woody Harrelson as Haymitch goes from the unlikeable drunkard to wise strategist and wins our hearts in the end. Lenny Kravitz turns in a warm performance as Cinna, Stanley Tucci is over the top in a good way as the game/talk show host. His false teethy and false toothy smile rivals that of Austin Powers. And last but not least by far, Donald Sutherland is wonderfully cold as the ruthless President Snow. He is truly not pleased with the outcome of this year's games. Poor Seneca, played by Wes Bentley bears the brunt of the blame which may be in part a winking acknowledgement from Gary Ross that if his movie based on the megaselling book had failed, the blame would fall on his directorial shoulders too. The action ends on President Snow's figure departing and I coudn't help but thinking that in the next Hunger Games someone will catch fire and there will be hell to pay. I guess I'll just have to read the book.
I'm posting the trailer again but I'm hating how much of the film it shows. Just go see it.