A reviewer at Entertainment Weekly posted his review of the film, criticizing it for ignoring one of the central themes of the book:
There is one important aspect of the original novel that is almost entirely absent from the movie: The darkly funny way in which Collins directly accuses the audience. As in, us. Weirdly, by turning the book into such a fan-baiting crowdpleaser, the movie version of Hunger Games seems to oddly miss the point of its own source material.
I see what he’s saying, but I think he’s missing the bigger picture. Darren Franich is writing his review in a context less plausible than the world of The Hunger Games. I, too, am a fan of the book, and I appreciate Suzanne Collins biting commentary about our complicity in the darker side of reality television. But movies adapted from books are reductive by nature. I don’t know how fast Mr. Franich reads, but it took ME a lot longer to read The Hunger Games than the movie’s 142-minute running time. Choices had to be made. I thought the filmmakers skillfully chose to focus more on the theme of the morality of survival: How much of yourself will you give away to save your own life? What is worth risking your life for? These are powerful questions for a Hollywood movie.
We were NEVER going to get the movie that Franich complains we didn’t get. Something had to get left out. I agree that the end of this movie was rushed and a little unsatisfying. But so much else of the movie worked (and worked really well), that I can forgive it a few missteps.
The upside is that Catching Fire (the second story in the trilogy) is a much better place to explore the themes that were left out of this movie. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was a part of the decision to choose to leave them out of this movie. The book Catching Fire felt largely irrelevant to me (except for a few necessary plot events to set up the third book) because the first book was as effective as Franich argues. The filmmakers have remedied that and set up the second movie to be very powerful, if they do follow through. The whole first half of Catching Fire is about nothing else but Katniss’s efforts to please her audience, and ultimately her failure to do that through artifice and success by being true to herself.
In conclusion, I think Franich’s criticism is premature. Yes, The Hunger Games is not a perfect movie. But it’s a great start to what could become a very powerful sci-fi movie trilogy.