Thoughts: I liked it. Although it started a bit rough, is a bit long in the tooth generally speaking, and also suffers from the same clunky dialogue that plagued the book, I found myself drawn into the proceedings, and pulled along for the ride.
Admittedly though, I never felt for the characters or their plight. I always thought one of the main features of the book that would hamstring the film was how internal Katniss was. She barely spoke, and the majority of the book is spent in her head. Now, the worst thing to do would have been to make all her main internal dialogues into narration. Thankfully, they don't do that. But unfortunately, it means that we never grow to understand, empathize or truly associate with our heroine, despite her monopoly on the screentime. And the other side effect of that screentime means that everyone else gets the short shrift, but that's OK. I still enjoyed how it played out.
Shaky cam hits hard and fast, right from the get go.The "grittiness" of shaky cam, combined with the intentionally drab, plain-faced approach was disconcerting at first, but I came to appreciate the dedication to keeping things as straight as possible, which was one of the things I applauded the book for. It treated the subject material as serious, and approached everything matter-of-factly. This even trickled through to the very minimalist use of music and audio, again another point I applaud. Altogether, it was really quite smart filmmaking, and it worked. I was drawn in, piece by piece.
The film did lose it's momentum in the final act though. It hit hard, fast, and satisfyingly for a good while, and didn't shy away from the reality of the situation, another factor I thought was thumbs-up. But towards the end game it seemed to stumble a bit, but there really was nowhere else to go with the story so it couldn't be helped. I don't hold it against it. Plus a lot had to be cut to meet the films even quite large 142min runtime, and that kinda works for the film in spots, and kinda against it at others. But that in my opinion is just splitting hairs.
And interesting idea I had was, I wonder how the rule makers would handle attempted rape in the arena. I mean, you take a bunch of pubescent, hormone-riddled teens, force them to resort to their baser instincts, and once you add alpha male mentalities into the mix, it seems like a very real possibility. This has nothing to do with my rating or the review, but it is just an observation I made, and I'd love to know how the creator would have handled it. My guess is it wouldn't make for great TV, so the rule makers would have to step in.
Anyway, I digress. I wouldn't watch it again (a bit too long for my tastes) but I am very glad I sat down to watch it. Perhaps this will be like the Bourne films: I never liked the first film until I realized it was the first part of a three part whole. Let's see how the rest play out.