I finally got around to watching The Hunger Games last night. I really liked the books, but I'm always wary of movies based on books I like, because the book is always better than the movie, and I'm always disappointed. I actually didn't even like The Fellowship of the Ring the first time I saw it. The Hunger Games, sadly, kept that trend alive.
Unsurprisingly, the whole movie felt incredibly shallow by comparison to the books. Emotional moments were passed over, and most of the character development was completely removed. While I thought Woody Harrelson portrayed him very well, we are given no explanation for Haymitch's transition from degenerate, uncaring drunk to almost fatherly figure, a change which is given substantial play in the book. And Peeta and Katniss' "connection" seems to happen in a matter of hours and is the most unbelievable "love story" I've seen since Thor (which I otherwise really liked).
I thought they really screwed up Peeta's recounting of the bread incident. While I could accept the bastardized version of the mockingjay pin backstory, this seemed like a plot device which could have gone a long way toward building a realistic connection between the two of them. Instead it was confusing and lame.
I really didn't like Liam Hemsworth as Gale. While he wasn't given much to work with, I found him sullen and wholly unlikeable. While I always kind of rooted for Peeta in the books, as I personally find him much easier to empathize with, in the movie it was no contest at all. Gale's role expands considerably in Catching Fire, and I'm not looking forward to it at all.
There were also some small details that really bothered me, like the feast backpacks all being the same size and colour, or the cornucopia not being gold. I can accept some changes being made as a necessary element of converting the book to a movie, like the mutts being nothing more than vicious dogs (the true mutations would be far to complicated to convincingly show on screen) or changing the order of Thresh and Foxface's deaths, but not bothering to appropriately colour and size the feast backpacks just seemed lazy.
I did like their use of Claudius and Caesar as expositionary tools. I was concerned about how they would handle all the time Katniss spends alone with nothing but her thoughts to explain her actions, and this worked well without completely abusing the original story. I also thought Elizabeth Banks played a pretty terrific Effie, though while Lenny Kravitz fit the look for Cinna, his acting was less than stellar.
Unfortunately, as I said, the whole thing felt very shallow. I don't really understand why they needed to make it feel so rushed. They were supposed to be in the arena for two weeks, long enough to starve or die of wounds, but as far as I can tell in the movie they were in there a mere three days. In fact, it was so brief that blowing up the supplies seemed utterly pointless. I know it was a long movie as it was, but surely they could have made it look like some time had passed.
I suppose it wasn't a terrible movie, and it really had no chance of living up to my expectations anyway, but I'm still disappointed. I'm not sure whether I'll bother to watch Catching Fire.