We were at Chad's folks over Easter weekend, and they were kind enough to watch the kids, so we squeezed in a viewing of The Hunger Games. Neither of us have read the book, though when it looked like I wasn't going to get to see it, I did read some spoiler posts. (But I held off on the book on purpose, and am going to keep doing so for a bit longer; there are some things that apparently the book does better, but not being limited to Katniss's first-person narration worked very well for the movie, by most accounts.)
I thought it was excellent. Yes, the pacing went a little wonky in the second half; I was able to infer some things that apparently the book makes more explicit, but how well that worked for people who hadn't been reading spoiler posts, I have my doubts. Yes, there are things having to do with the racial makeup of the cast that I have very conflicted feelings about. But I was glued to the screen the whole way through, am suppressing a surprisingly-strong urge to take up archery, and on the whole found it just a really well-done movie.
And now, for some spoilers (book to a certain extent as well as movie).
There was a really loud and stupid guy a row ahead of us, who did things like ask his companions "Do you think she's hot?" and say, "Well, she's dead" when Katniss was injured early. As Chad put it later, dude, she is the hero, this is not that kind of movie! But the worst was when we see that Rue has been hit by the spear; he again announced, "She's dead," which was so fucking egregious that Chad and I both said "SHHH!" really loudly, and I am way more inclined to do that kind of thing than him.
Also: Rue! Yes, she needed more screen time, but shorthanding her as a sister-substitute worked for me, and she was so adorable in the time she had, that I totally choked up when she died.
Which ties into the pacing issues and the racial diversity issues. *flips metaphorical coin* Right, race it is.
Wildly mixed feelings, as I said. I gather that in the book District 11 reacted to Rue's death by sending Katniss bread, rather than rioting? And while I like the bigger picture and think it was, and was portrayed as, entirely justified and sympathetic, all the same . . . Same goes for the killing of horrible rich girl by the District 11 boy, the cognitive dissonance of the image and the context. I'd like to think that was the point, but that's such a tricky thing to do. If there had been more than two brown faces in District 12 I would've felt more confident that it was on purpose and likely to be successful (literally, I saw two, and probably only because I was looking. IIRC, they were fairly light-skinned, too.).
Pacing. Needed more Rue, and also to make it clearer that Katniss was playing for the cameras with the star-crossed lovers thing; I was alerted to that by spoiler posts so got it as it came up, but it was pretty subtle and I could see people missing it easily.
Something I couldn't figure out from the movie: is it supposed to be obvious that the games are rigged? I remember when Katniss got fireballs shot at her to get her back into the game, thinking that they couldn't let her live now that she'd seen such obvious manipulation, but then I remembered that of course it was all being broadcast so everyone knew. And that, and the animals in the endgame, were enough like game stuff that I could see people accepting it. But the rule changes, or rather the change back from "two winners" to "one winner," seemed to be in a completely different league of unfair fuckery, and I couldn't decide whether the game runners just expected District 12 to swallow it, or whether that aspect had been suppressed somehow, or what.
Finally, I've heard people comment on how Katniss never has to commit violence against a sympathetic character. I actually consider that thematically necessary rather than an too-easy plot contrivance: that is, what makes a sympathetic character is the refusal to go around killing other kids unprovoked, which means Katniss doesn't have to defend herself against any sympathetic characters. And she doesn't have to take the offense, either, because that's the payoff of the whole movie, the thing it was always and inevitably headed for, when Katniss looked like she was finally backed into a kill-or-be-killed corner and gets out by rejecting the whole premise.
Having a non-cackling-evil character attack Katniss would just have moved that moment up earlier, which from a dramatic standpoint I cannot regard as a necessity (though it might have resulted in some interesting logistics).
Oh, as a data point, and the hand-held camerawork did not give me motion sickness, unlike, say, the last two Bourne movies, which made me very ill.