Alyssa and I saw "The Hunger Games" opening night Friday night. I had read all three books and Alyssa hadn't read any of them (I use hadn't and not hasn't because she started and finished the first book this morning).
Inevitably, in reviewing a movie based on books that I've read, the tendency is to compare the movie to the books and nitpick the differences. I'm trying to keep that in mind and focus on the movie itself instead...I'm not sure how successful I'll be. Also, there will probably be some small spoilers for anyone who hasn't already read/seen the material.
As a movie, it was well paced, particularly for the amount of information they tried to squeeze into the nearly two and a half hours. The stark visual contrast between the opening scenes in dirty/dingy District 12 (light blues and greys and browns), compared to the spectacle of colorfully outrageous opulence in the Capitol and the lush forest greens in the games themselves helped demonstrate how vastly different the lives of those in the Districts can be. The shaky-camera action scenes could have been nausea-inducing, but considering the fact that they were trying not to linger on and relish the murder of children (a la Battle Royale) I think they did a decent job of conveying the danger without guaranteeing an "R" rating.
The actors all did a great job. Jennifer Lawrence was great as Katniss, Peeta wasn't given much to work with and Gale was barely even seen, but they both did decent jobs as well. In the books, I remembered Peeta's feelings for Katniss as being a bit more obvious in the lead up to the games even though she wasn't as trusting, in the movie the audience shares her uncertainty. The little girl that played Rue was great, Prim was fine in a limited role, and I really enjoyed seeing Trixie the whore (Paula Malcomson) from "Deadwood" as Katniss' mom.
Bottom line, it was great. Was it 100% faithful to the source material? No, but it attempted to convey most of the important themes in the book and was moderately successful. The mood was tense when it called for it, exotic when appropriate and the film always entertained. I highly recommend it for book lovers and noobs alike!