I've been a fan of The Hunger Games for almost a year now. I was reading the trilogy when I was in DC last March. I was hooked instantly and I've been waiting for the movie for a while.
When they announced the cast for the movie I was a bit disappointed, but now that I've seen the movie I've had a change of heart... with some of the cast. Jennifer Lawrence was spot in. She was the perfect Katniss. I loved how she could look like a normal girl and then glamorous. It's easy to see why the Capitol fell in love with her, as well as Peeta and Gale. Those two guys are still hard for me. Liam Hemsworth as Gale is okay, I guess. He wasn't really in the movie too much, but I pictured him darker in my head while reading. Josh Hutcherson as Peeta is where I get caught up. I can't decide if I like him as Peeta. When they talk about how strong Peeta is, I don't really see that from Josh. Sure, they show that in the film, but it feels like they're also justifying their casting selection. Some people want the actors to be switched, and maybe that would have done it for me. Josh with his natural dark hair seems more of a Gale to me than Liam. Regardless, the acting by the entire cast was fabulous. I loved Woody Harrelson as Haymitch - so great! Lenny Kravitz was such a great addition to the cast. He was soft and caring as Cinna and his scenes with Jennifer Lawrence were some of my favorite.
The movie stayed pretty true to the book. Having read it a year ago, and only once, I had to look up websites that called out differences between the movie and the book. However, I did notice the end was a little different. In the book, Katniss and Peeta are separated before they go on stage for their interview and Katniss is extremely upset by this. I wish that had been shown in the movie. I picked up on Katniss' hesitation to pretend to love Peeta, and that it was an act to get them out alive. I'm not sure it was pushed hard enough in the movie, or her distrust of him from the start.
The first half of the movie is setting up the Hunger Games and they don't actually get into the arena until the second half of the film. Once the tributes are fighting for their lives, the movie takes on an entirely new feeling. You start to hate President Snow and see what he's capable of, you pity the young, small tributes and understand why Katniss volunteered for Prim who never would have stood a chance. There is a lot of death in the book and the movie did a good job of capturing it without going to an R rating.
My one complaint with the movie is the cinematography. The Blair Witch shaky camera is just annoying. There were so many scenes that would have been better if we could have actually focused on what was actually going on. I know this is the new, cool thing to do to show you're great with a camera - but enough.
I loved the movie and left the theater 100% satisfied with the adaptation. Would I recommend the movie to someone who hasn't read the book - absolutely. I think you still get a feeling for the world that the characters live in and for the games. Sure there are some details that are left out, but far less than they would leave out in the Harry Potter films.