I don't have time to write a long review, but I saw The Hunger Games Friday night and wanted to share a few thoughts and a few fangirl squees.
Overall impression: I was not disappointed. Granted, I saw the trailer before I started reading the books, so of course the characters all conformed to my expectations perfectly - but they also surpassed them. I was especially impressed by Jennifer Lawrence, although I expected no less after seeing Winter's Bone. Aside from all the Katniss's conflicting affections and incredible strength and snarky personality, it's damn hard to act out all the physical pain and grit without rolling your eyes around in your head (ahem...Elijah Wood....ahem), but she nailed it. I really believed her exhaustion and desperation with the burn on her leg and it had the impact it should in a movie that's all about people fighting for their lives and trying to preserve their physical bodies as well as their self-worth and individuality.
Design: Again, good stuff. I did think the opening sequence in District 12 was a little over-the-top on the depression-era old people faces, but I liked the overall atmosphere, especially the images of all the kids dressed up in their best, hair slicked back, looking so innocent in a way. And I loved how crazy they went with the Capitol fashions. And how much screen time they gave to the crowds.
Action movie v. social commentary: Again, glad they spent so much time on the crowds, the media hype, the game makers, and the political machinations behind the scenes. I thought that was all a great way to put us in Katniss's mindset - that she's always being watched, being judged, being controlled. And it made the movie complementary to the book because it didn't just cut things, it added things, too - which is always good. The downside was that the more time they spent on that, the less time they spent on other important things.
Like the ending. I was really disappointed with the entire ending sequence, starting with the mutts all the way to the final shot. The end of the book was so great, the way it pushed you to the limit with the finale of the games, and then placed you in a kind of horrible tension limbo when Katniss is recovering, and then plunged you into another, even bigger danger, and also complicated the Katniss-Peeta relationship beautifully at the last moment. The movie did none of that. In fact, overall, I thought the first half was way better than the second half. It just felt like they ran out of steam and out of time.
Favorite moments: The countdown and the moments just before Katniss enters the arena; the relationship between Rue and Katniss; when Peeta made Katniss smile with his joke about the bow; when he admitted to having beat himself up over not going out to her in the rain; when he touched her braid at the end; when Katniss made snarky comments to Cato and the gang from her tree; when Seneca found the berries; when Haymitch was rude to Effie; when Katniss wouldn't answer Peeta's questions ('why are you doing this for me?') because she doesn't know the answers; when she saw herself on fire on the screens at the tribute parade....so many more.
It just felt great to sink into something wholeheartedly and passionately in a way that sometimes only nerdy fandom can let you do. I really wanted to enjoy the hell out of this movie and I did, and I laughed and cried (and may have cut off circulation in my friend's hand during the tracker jacker scene), and it felt good. And I'm thankful that people aren't afraid to write books and make movies based on crazy ideas and make them into really great stories.