First things first, I have read all three of “The Hunger Games” novels and enjoyed all of them.
The film, directed by Gary Ross (“Seabiscuit”), starts off strong with a unique visual and aural style unlike most teen-focused films we’ve seen in recent years. The main character KatnissEverdeen’s hometown of District 12 is portrayed appropriately, and the use of documentary-style shaky-camera makes it feel very down-to-earth. Sadly, this strong visual style makes an exit from the film as soon as Katniss heads for the Capitol, roughly one-fourth of the way into the movie.
What follows is a lackluster hodgepodge of greatly abbreviated scenes that lack any real emotion and low-budget composite work that fails to make most of the scenes taking place during the film’s second act feel like anything more than actors in a studio in front of green screens.
In the end, the only character I felt invested in was Katniss. Too little time and dialogue was spent on any of the other characters to make them really all that memorable (with the possible exception of Peeta). Despite the film’s frantic pace, it all just ended up feeling more like fan service than effective story-building. All of the major notes of the book are present, but largely without any of the trimmings that make them feel important, relevant or even interesting.
“The Hunger Games” is certainly not a bad film, but it just isn’t all that good of one, either. If you are a fan of the novels, it may be worth seeing, but if not, I wouldn’t recommend the film. Despite all of this, its success is already assured. I am just hoping for the inevitable: a better, bigger-budget sequel.