Finally saw it, after seeing and hearing so much about it, particularly about all the references in the book series to Ancient Rome. I haven’t read the books, but I was already thinking I would, and the movie certainly made some convincing arguments.
They did a good job presenting the created world, both the elaborate design of the Capitol and the destitution of the outer districts, even everyone in the latter was still a little cleaner and healthier than they ought to have been, where they put on their Sunday best to gather and be punished. And while one is wary when one the characters is being portrayed by a pop singer, he did a good job and so did most of the others. I was a little less than sold on Peeta Mallark, though, and I’m not entirely sure if that was the actor or the character; I’ll have to read before I can pass final judgement on that.
Another thing I’m curious to know is how much of the “outside of the arena” during the Games themselves is from the books; since the books are told from Katniss’ point of view, I suspect the movie must have added stuff there. It was a great move; in most cases, behind the scenes material is always interesting, and when it’s for an event like this, there’s a morbidity that fascinates you despite yourself.
The most effective part of the movie was the one that combined these elements, in Rue’s death sequence. Obviously the death was from the books, and that was devastating enough, especially when just about every aspect of Rue’s character, from her little-girl behavior to her actually being capable enough to save Katniss’ life, seems to be created to endear her to us and make us cry when she dies. But here we also see the reaction from her district, and how they’ve been treated cruelly enough that they’re driven to riot even though of course they get crushed. It gives the film a feeling of hopelessness, especially because even though of course our heroine survives, and even manages to preserve our hero too when she shouldn’t have been able to, the world remains as it is; all they can do is go home and lick their wounds. I’ve heard that changes somewhat in the later books, but only somewhat even then.