Adventure, 142 Minutes, 2012
I have to begin this by admitting that I’ve not read these books. My wife has, however, and wanted to see the movie and I want to continue to see my wife so we watched it. So I can only speak to the film and not how well it honors its source material.
The premise, a totalitarian government forcing children from its oppressed population to fight to the death, seemed flawed. It’s unclear how these gladiatorial games are supposed to help maintain control when stealing random children generally leads to revolt, not complacency. It’s even more unclear how things actually work in practice. At times it’s blatantly obvious that the entire games take place in some kind of Star Trek holodeck. For example at one point an operator taps a panel causing a specific tree to fall and later another causes attack dogs to appear in a specific spot out of nowhere while another generates daylight at will. Then at other times it seems to be just a random wilderness area as when aid packages are parachuted in and the characters find hidden cameras (neither of which would be needed in a simulation) and are later picked up in an aircraft.
The technology is magic: it does whatever it needs to do no matter how nonsensical and that’s the only explanation you get. Unfortunately this mentality also extends to the plot. Motivations are muddied, at best, and characters are never well-developed beyond basic stereotypes. Events very carefully ensure that our main characters are never placed in a position of moral ambiguity. After constructing obvious (and momentarily interesting) moral conundrums the script is careful to dispose of them cleanly without the weight of character choice or too much pesky acting.
Personally I found the entire premise rather silly but admit that a deeper back story might eliminate some of my complaints. Maybe you really need to have read the books to completely grok this – a prerequisite that, considering the popularity of the books, may not be unreasonable. Taken purely as an action adventure story, however, it was rather good if you didn’t peek too long behind the curtain.