As most people know, The Hunger Games follows Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence), who volunteers for her sister Prim (Willow Shields) at the reaping for the hunger games. Katniss and her fellow tribute Peeta (Hutcherson) are put into an arena and forced to fight twenty-two other tributes including the brutal Cato (Alexander Ludwig), the vicious Clove (Isabel Fuhrman) and others. Katniss is helped by her drunken mentor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and her stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) before the arena and is assisted by the young Rue (Amandla Stenberg) while she is in the games.
The film's pacing is fantastic and where the book is slow, the film speeds it up. The book is told in first person, and the movie changes that so that we can follow what's happening outside the arena while Katniss is stuck in the games. Some people have complained that the film moved too fast through scenes, but I think they did just fine. The cast is amazing. Lawrence is powerful as Katniss and Hutcherson is good in some scenes, but not as good in others. The supporting cast is even better. Elizabeth Banks is fantastic as Effie Trinket and the best part is Lenny Kravitz as Cinna. Perfect. Wes Bentley also gets a ton of screen time as Seneca Crane, a character only mentioned in the books.
The violence is also handled quite well. The cornucopia scene is probably the most violent, but the shaky camera work prevents any focus on gore. The violence is not really showed as much as suggested. The worst ever shown is Cato snapping the neck of a young tribute. Other than that, the violence is not shown viciously.
The capitol is amazing and some of the most wonderful set designs I've seen. District 12 is also handled quite well. It shows the horror and harsh conditions some of the poorer districts go through excellently. The reaping is extremely powerful. The horror of kids get picked to essentially die is bad enough to read about, but worse to see actually happen.
The movie is also extremely faithful to the book. All the important scenes and set pieces are there and all the stuff that is different are just small details. The Hunger Games is an excellent film. Gary Ross did the near impossible: make an emotional, gritty and violent movie that's faithful to the book while appealing strongly to the masses who haven't read it. The Hunger Games will enter the success column of Hollywood movies adapted from books and it won't be long before we see Catching Fire and Mockingjay on the big sceen.
THE FINAL GRADE: B+ (8.4/10)