Review: Is The Hunger Games An Unfaithful Adaption Of The Book, Or Are The Odds Really In It's Favor?

Now a days in Hollywood book to movie adaptions are almost as dangerous as video game adaptions. Most of them are negatively received from frustrated fans because of changes and eliminations of certain aspects of the book, and I have to admit to being one of them. Well in recent months I've become a huge fan of The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, and the film adaption has made it's way to one of my most anticipated films. And now it's arrived, and while it's no Harry Potter, it's also no Twilight, and it's probably one of the most faithful book adaptions we've seen yet.

 In the near future, an event known as The Hunger Games is taken place each year in a country known as Panem, which has replaced the now fallen North America. Panem is split into twelve districts, each one making it mandatory that every boy and girl between the ages twelve and eighteen participates in the annual Reaping, where one boy and one girl are chosen from each district (Known as tributes). Then they are trained and prepared before they must battle to the death in an arena controlled and designed by the Gamemakers of the Capitol.
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is a teenage girls living in District 12 with her mother and her sister Prim. District 12 is by far the poorest district (1 and 2 being the richest), and the only way Katniss manages to maintain her family's survival, is by hunting with her best friend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth). But thing take a drastic turn of events when Katniss' sister Prim is chosen as the District 12 tribute, only to have Katniss volunteer to take her place.
It is then that Katniss meet fellow tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), and together the two are brought to the Capitol and are mentored by previous District 12 Hunger Games winner Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), who is more of a drunk than actual help at first. They are also supported by perky chaperon Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), and stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), the two are quickly well supported to share the arena with the likes of fellow tributes Foxface, Rue, and Thresh, and also survive the Career Tributes; Clove, Glimmer, Marvel, and the vicious Cato (Alexander Ludwig).
For the most part the story stays intact and in order, which is something rarely done in most book adaption. What really kept the movie from just being an average teen film was it's spot on casting, especially the casting of some actors other book adaptions would kill for (No pun intended). Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks both gave spot on performances as Effie and Haymitch, bringing the same fun polar-opposites relationship they had in the first book to the big screen. While I had my doubts about Harrelson as Haymitch (Mainly because he didn't fit the character's physical description), he nailed everything from his sarcastic humor to his drunk antics.
While the tributes didn't last too long or have many lines, for the most they all physically fit they're book counterparts, and seemed just as threatening as I had imagined while reading. Two spot on tribute castings were Dayo Okeniyi, who fits Thresh like a glove, and as does Jacqueline Emerson as the sneaky scavenger Foxface (She really does have a fox's face, no offense to her). The career tributes are also all pretty well casted, looking vicious during fight scenes, and physically imposing in comparison to their fellow tributes, especially Alexander Ludwig as Cato. And of course Amandla Stenberg couldn't have been a better choice for Rue, becoming a likable character in an instant despite her lack of screen time.
The people of the Capitol were also just as over the top and crazy as they were described in the book. A big highlight of both the book and movie for me was the character Caesar Flickerman, a TV host played brilliantly here by Stanley Tucci (The man's a chameleon), and he makes the character a complete scene stealer, and one that you'll remember long after the films over. One of the main difference between the book and movie is the fact that we finally get to see the Gamesmaker's at work  behind the scenes of the games, and with that comes the inclusion of new character Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley). While he gets some cool lines with President Snow (Donald Sutherland), he really isn't a necessary character, and his importance is sort of forced onto the audience, when we really want to see more of other characters (Notably Rue and Peeta). Speaking of President Snow, Gary Ross nailed it on the head with the casting of Donald Sutherland, who is Snow in the flesh from his menacing voice to his snake like eyes. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing more of Sutherland in Catching Fire.
As for the main players in the movie, while I was a bit optimistic at first, it seems Gary Ross' unexpected casting choices for Katniss, Peeta, and Gale all turned out to be close to perfect. While I was wondering why the marketing of the film has advertised Gale as a main character (When he really is hardly in the book), the film manages to make Gale a very likable character, he gets quite a lot of screen time in the beginning and even during the games (Via watching that is). Liam Hemsworth actually turned out to be the spitting image of the Gale I imagined, and the relationship he has with Katniss is portrayed perfectly. Jennifer Lawrence was also an excellent fit for Katniss, showing all of Katniss' emotions and anger during the games nearly identically to her book counterpart. 
Peeta on the other hand was probably the character who I was most disappointed with. Not because I think Josh Hutcherson did a bad job, if anything he could've been a perfect Peeta if hadn't been for the fact that Peeta was completely robbed in the film. He was robbed of character development and screen time, and even importance. While some will complain that Rue's screen time wasn't as long as it should have been, I can except that much more than less time for a character as important as Peeta. Towards the beginning of the movie Peeta had equal importance to his book counterpart, and he had many lines and scenes before the games started, but from then on the character sort of faded.
BE CAUTIOUS SPOILERS AHEAD. I've read the book so I understand that Peeta is supposed to disappear when he joins the Careers, but after that his relationship with Katniss felt very rushed, as well as his time being sick. In the book Katniss and Peeta's relationship really flourishes in the cave, and you care much more about him because he's dying of infection. I can understand why some unnecessary time was cut from the cave, but they even cut off some parts that wouldn't have taken too long, and could've really developed his character (Such as him nearly being dead when they win the games, and his leg being amputated). Because of this the pacing felt off since the movie started off at a slow pace, and hardly missing any detail (To the point that it actually got kind of slow at parts) but in reality that time could've been used for much stronger character development for Peeta.

Ultimately, The Hunger Games is a great movie and a great adaption of the novel. Despite some important parts and character screen time being cut from the film, fans of the books shouldn't be disappointed by the film's amazing cast and preservation of the story. It manages to pull off all of the crazyness and evil of the Capitol, hardships and cruelty of the games, and the standard slums of District 12 from Suzanne Collin's book all with pefect balance I'd go as far as to say that The Hunger Games has been my favorite film of the year as of yet. With a whole series still to come, The Hunger Games has a very bright future ahead of it, but unfortanelty Katniss Everdeen doesn't.

I give The Hunger Games 4 out of 5 stars:
And here's the trailer for The Hunger Games:

What did you think if the Hunger Games? Are you going to see it?