I realize, in posting this review, that two billion other reviews of this movie will probably be out here on the Interwebz this morning. But I would be remiss if I didn't say something about our movie-going experience on Saturday night. I can't remember the last time my entire family got THIS excited for a movie premier. My daughter was actually trembling through the previews, waiting for it to start. I found that to be so adorable, based on the fact that she almost never shows any emotion.
Please be assured I shall not spoil a thing for you, whether you have yet to see the movie or have read the book.
Most people on this earth know the premise, but just for due diligence purposes, I will tell you a little about the plot. (Feel free to skip this paragraph.) It is in the future, and the government has total control over the little people. As penance for a rebellion that occurred years ago, it forces each of the 12 districts to sacrifice one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to participate in the Hunger Games, where they fight, live on TV, to the death until only one survives. Katniss Everdeen is our badass protagonist who will represent District 12.
The movie stayed very true to the beloved novel (lest the screenwriters be skinned alive by the 3.2 billion fans). There were small inconsistencies, but none that really mattered to me. Because there are sequels to consider, care must be given to the plot threads to keep and the ones to leave, and I was OK with all of their decisions.
Although the movie was a PG-13 rating, the themes were mature and edgy, the perspective unflinching. The conditions of the various districts were miserable, with near-starvation and filth the norm. The battles for survival were bloody, intense and charged with adrenaline. I admired this. It would have been easy to soften a few edges, knowing there are third and fourth graders out there reading the books, but that did not happen. Just keep this in mind for younger children or older children that are sensitive to these kinds of things. Reading it and seeing it are two different experiences.
I originally had a few concerns about the casting. Jennifer Lawrence was not my first pick for Katniss. I didn't think she looked right. But Lawrence has acting cred, with an Oscar nomination under her belt for "Winter's Bone". Considering the fact that she was in almost every single scene, she needed to be someone other than just a pretty face. Lawrence is beautiful without being too Hollywood, she has some meat on her bones, and is believable as a girl who can survive in the wild and at the same time inspire a love triangle.
I also cringed when I saw Josh Hutcherson cast as Peeta. He seemed too boyish and clean cut. But again, he felt right in his part. As well as most of the supporting crew. Woody Harrelson, for the umpteenth time, did his THANG and owned it. (If you haven't seen him in Zombieland, you must.) Donald Sutherland was creepy and evil. I wasn't crazy about Prim...she was shrieky and she got on my nerves. But she doesn't have a big role so it was easy to forgive.
By the way, I thought the casting of Lenny Kravitz as Cinna was...INSPIRED. Who knew?
The movie was right around 2 hours and 20 minutes...a little on the long side. But I never even gave it a thought, or looked at my watch. It flew by, which is a testament to the pacing.
There were a few action scenes that were chaotic, frenzied. You almost didn't know what you were seeing, except a blur of movement. If you have heard about this and are worried about it, just sit towards the back of the theater so you have a better perspective. I personally thought it was an excellent effect.
As far as book-to-movie translations, this would be at the top of my list. If you are an avid fan of the books, you will not be disappointed.
Highly recommended (even if your kids want a repeat showing)!