What makes Susanne Collin’s original book work is the very thing that could have doomed this film: its narration.
The entire book is told from the main character, Katniss Everdeen’s point of view. Collins’ utter brilliance at character writing means you see what she sees and feels what she feels. And often, that’s a horrifying thing.
Obviously, a film can ‘t rely on just that. Well, a good film can’t. A bad one would have subjected us to a lot of voiceover telling us what we’re seeing, but Collins (a former TV writer) and her co-writers Gary Ross (also director) and Billy Ray avoid that. Instead, they make the book’s world fully realized with the help of an excellent cast, pretty good camerawork and a nice sense of scale and timing.
The performances are what you’ve heard: Jennifer Lawrence is a movie star now thanks to being Katniss. Woody Harrelson proves once again that he’s moved beyond Cheers as Haymitch, her mentor and Josh Hutcherson, thanks to his stellar turn as Peeta, Katniss’ love interest and partner in the arena where the titular Games are fought, won’t have to do crap like Journey to the Center of the Earth anymore.
There are some quibbles: Ross’ decision to use handheld cameras and “shaky-cam” doesn’t really work, except for a couple of key instances. Certain characters, major or minor, that are developed in the book are glossed over or outright ignored. And some pivotal scenes seem to have lost a lot of their edge, although this is doubtless due to the ,PG-13 rating. But hey, have to earn that teenager money somehow, right?
But overall, this is a solid well-done sci-fi film. Seeing as how I just finished the final book in the series only this morning, expect a retrospective soon.