The movie was, from book to screen, 90% unchanged. The juxtaposition of the saturated colors Capitol and very-exposed and sun-drenched Districts was not unnoticed. The camerawork was handheld at the beginning and made me a bit dizzy, but it didn't last too long.
I was very impressed by the acting. Of course the main actors were fantastic--Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss) captured Katniss's uncomfortableness on camera, anger, etc.; Josh Hutcherson (Peeta) ; Woody Harrelson (Haymitch) was a convincing drunk; Elizabeth Banks (Effie) was hilarious; Lenny Kravitz (Cinna) had a great onscreen bond with Lawrence; Stanley Tucci (Caesar) was a great talk show host--but I was also thoroughly impressed by Amandla Stenberg, who played Rue, and Alexander Ludwig, who played Cato. These two did excellent jobs in all of their scenes, and were standout tributes in the movie.
The special effects were very well done, and the integrating of the Hunger Games footage viewed by the Districts and keeping the audience up-to-date on all the creatures and rules of the Hunger Games was seamless.
I loved the movie and am even attending the midnight release (I'm in line at the moment). Really impressive, almost completely accurate to the book, and it brought the horrors of the Hunger Games to the screen (remember, it's PG-13).
To me, these books have a clear anti-war theme, but also a strong warning about a government unchecked. In most dystopian books, the government just gets too big and tries to control its citizens or to give them an ideal life, but it never works (some recent dystopian books like this: The Maze Runner, Crossed, Delirium, etc.). They tell them their jobs, who to marry, how many kids, whether they are allowed to live, and where. In The Hunger Games, the government is big enough to be able to make children kill each other. It's messed up. Allotting citizens this much food, assigning them a job--some people like having decisions made for them, but these stolen choices are a gateway to fewer choices. It is so important, especially today, for voters to understand their world. Americans vote for the most powerful person on the planet (the POTUS) and that decision needs to be taken more seriously. Only around half of those eligible in the US actually votes. Your vote actually counts.
Maybe the best candidate isn't from your "party" but they have the views and ideals that you believe make a better world and country, and a track record that shows they can accomplish them.
It is interesting how the idea of making televised death bad is being televised, but I hope that it will increase the audience of the people who learn the themes of this trilogy and make people understand the horrors of war and the importance of choice. As entertaining and exciting as these books are, there are undeniable messages and themes being advocated.
REVIEW WITH SPOILERS (in white text--highlight to read):
As I mentioned above, the movie was 90% unchanged from the book. What was in that 10%? Well, the mayor's daughter doesn't exist, but I like the way that Katniss and Prim trade it back and forth in the movie. The mayor's daughter wasn't too critical to the story. The cave bits didn't show as much affection between Peeta and Katniss as in the books, and Katniss didn't display any sign she thought it was an act to survive as in the book. The endings of the movie and the book were different, showing more of President Snow instead of Peeta realizing that Katniss was acting to survive. There wasn't any talk of hot chocolate, either, but that was okay being left out in this two-and-a-half hour movie. Lastly, the muttations weren't explained to be made of the other tributes, which could have been very disturbing.
The start of the movie had some paragraphs explaining the Hunger Games, which people who haven't read the books (those crazy people!) might struggle to read and comprehend at the speed it appears--it's not really much faster than the Star Wars openings, though.
How was the faux fire of the District 12 chariot ride? It wasn't quite how I imagined it. I thought it would be more engulfing, instead of streaming behind Katniss and Peeta. The Flickerman interview dress faux fire was great, though. Really well done.
The Capitol and its citizens were awesome. Looked really realistic, and plausible for the future. I loved how Flickerman's audience was set up, like on a hill. The buildings were great, and the train was really cool.
Jennifer Lawrence plays a terrific older sister, (in Winter's Bone, too!) though she is actually the youngest of three, and her reaction to Rue's death is very touching and convincing. I was crying for about 10 minutes there.
I really liked seeing the people actively working on the Games, like how one woman added a falling tree to the fire, and later a muttation. I really liked the short-haired, bulldog approach to the muttations. They looked much more realistic than current long-haired dogs (re: "New Moon").
One of the two parts of the film I didn't like was how Katniss gets blown backwards by the food pyramid's explosion--it looked a bit comical. But that, and how shaky the camera was at the very beginning of the film, were the only bad parts (except for the 10% for a book-stickler like me). This movie was much more accurate to the book than the last Harry Potter movie was (you can't just break the Elder Wand!!).
The sound editing was fantastic, and I loved how there were very quiet moments, like when Katniss shoots a bull's eye but nobody pays attention. I also really liked how colorful the drinks were. Speaking of color, the Capitol's citizens had some incredible makeup and colors--really wild looks. And c'mon, Seneca's beard? Really cool. The blood and guts were great, too. Ve Neill and Glenn Hetrick did excellent work.