This review contains minor spoilers for plot points within the film.
This is a fine action film which I think will leave both those who have read and those who have not read the source material pleased. It’s largely quite faithful to the source in its broad strokes, if slightly disappointing in leaving out some key scenes I felt made the book special. I was surprised they kept in as much of the ending as they did, but felt they did it well, considering what they excised in getting there.
When a movie is adapted from a well-known book, some people will always have anxiety that lines of dialogue, characters, actions, pieces of jewelry will all have some deep hidden meaning that they are somehow missing out on fully appreciating if they have not read the book.
Some people recognize that the way to fix this is to read the book before they see the movie. Some people, alas, do not. Instead they see the movie with someone who *has* read the book, and at every change of scene ask, “What is that, is that important?” apparently completely forgetting the simple dictum of films made for the general public that IF SOMETHING IS REALLY IMPORTANT IT WILL BE EXPLAINED TO YOU.
A person of the latter type and his enabling date were sitting behind me for The Hunger Games, and it was during the tracker jacker sequence that I nearly had to turn around in my seat and remind him of this simple dictum. In the book, Katniss has a page or two to explain, after she spies the hive, what tracker jackers are. It can take a few minutes to read. In the movie, it takes literally a few seconds for the broadcasters of the Games to explain what is going on, and yet somehow there was time for the anxious gentleman behind me to ask his date, “What are ‘tracker jackers’? Are they important?” *and* for her to actually start answering him before the 0.4 seconds of screen time passed that it took for the characters to answer his question for him.
Turning this simple dictum to a later point in the film, I would say that the wild dog beasts are sufficiently well-explained as (a) created by the Gamemakers to (b) provide a new challenge to the Tributes without going into the Muttations as they are explained in the book, and without needing to add the emotional conflict created by the specific origins of these Muttations.
At lunch after the show, it was explained to me that some of the extra elements in this film which are not shown in the source (the rioting in District 11, for example) come from events described in later books in the series, which I have not yet read. That works for me, because I suspect at some point in sequels to this film we’ll get a better understanding of the Muttations and get to see Avoxes, and that sort of thing, which there just wasn’t time for in an action film.
(I can’t help but notice that the IMDb credits for this film include a credit for “Avox Girl,” which leads me to believe we’re in for a nice extended edition DVD.)
As a complete aside, I have to say, two fine points of Suzanne Collins’s writing from the source did not strike me until I was watching the movie. One is related to the wild dog Muttations and Peeta’s desire to die “as himself.” The other is the nice touch of the final outcome of the Hunger Games being decided by something they choose to eat.