I made it to the theater this weekend to see The Hunger Games, after reading all three books around Christmastime. I thought I'd share my thoughts this afternoon.
Overall, I thought this was one of the best movie adaptations I've ever seen. They stuck so closely to the book! There were a few minor changes, but only one that bothered me a little (I don't want to put any spoilers in here, so I'm not going to say which part it was).
First of all, I thought the acting was superb. Jennifer Lawrence was THE perfect Katniss Everdeen if you ask me. And Josh Hutcherson was great as Peeta. The only characters that didn't 100% match the picture in my head were Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket (I'm not sure why...maybe it's because I can only ever see her as Kim from Scrubs? I've watched way too many hours of Scrubs) and Woody Harrelson as Haymitch (In the book I felt a love/hate sort of thing for Haymitch, and I thought Woody Harrelson made him just a touch too lovable).
I also thought they handled the heavy subject matter pretty well. Yes, it is a violent book. However, I think the violence serves the purpose to convey a very powerful message. I thought the movie was well-done in that they kept the deaths quick and showed as little as possible, but still conveyed the horror of the whole premise of the Hunger Games (a game where children fight to the death).
One big concern I had about the movie was that they wouldn't be able to convey all of Katniss's thoughts on the screen, because such a huge part of the book is her inner dialogue. However, I thought they did a great job of this. They used the announcers a lot to explain what was going on, and the music and mood of the scenes portrayed the rest.
I compare this series to the Harry Potter books and the Twilight books, in that it is a young adult series of epic novels. If I were to rate how well the movie matched the book, I would say The Hunger Games definitely wins if it is competing against the other books I mentioned. Simply because the Harry Potter books contained so much, it was impossible to fully transform them into movies because there was no possible way to include everything. And Twilight failed miserably in casting, in my opinion. Kristen Stewart is nothing like the Bella I pictured, and Robert Pattinson is not an attractive/lovable enough Edward. And let's fact it, Taylor Lautner is too hot to play a character that wasn't supposed to be nearly so lovable in the books. Anyway, I think The Hunger Games did a fantastic job of casting the perfect actors for their characters, and also sticking to the book for most main plot points.
So what did you think? Did they do a good job with the movie? I still think the book was better, because the book is always better! But I thought the movie was about as good as it could have been.