There's no denying the subject matter is dark, scary and harrowing. Like Battle Royale before, the idea of kids killing each other, battling to the death is not one that can be described as entertaining but is one that leverages weight behind moral and social commentary; and that is something that this film does extremely effectively.
Keeping as spoiler free as I can, the overwhelming success of this movie is it's ability to create an atmosphere that has you unnerved and on the edge of your seat waiting for something dreadful to happen. Whilst this is true, this isn't a perfect film. I've not read the books, but the design of the future World is something I found particularly annoying and deeply frustrating - personally if I had to dress and style myself like a city twat then I'd gladly volunteer myself to live in District 12 and face entering the games myself. I understand that we're probably not supposed to see these characters as acceptable humans, but the disconnect was so extreme I felt the effect of the narrative was lessened as everyone non-district based seemed like an alien.
Also problematic for me was the watering down of the violence and this is not because I wanted to see the gore of the games in full horror. The scene that opens the actual games is a nightmare onslaught of kid against kid which hits you right between the eyes with its grizzly, loud and confusing content. However the smaller sections of combat that follow are just exercises of action-shaky-cam on steroids. This was my brain trying to compute these scenes as they were going on:
"Who's being attacked?"
- I don't know, I can't see
"Who launched the attack?"
- No idea either. Hm. This camera is very shaky.
"I just heard some ADR crunches on the sound system, that was probably a punch"
- Maybe, its really hard to tell.
"Oh I just give up. In a minute there'll be a victor.. oh yes.. that lad.. ahhhh I see now the camera has stopped shaking. No idea how they ended up there, but ok."
It's quite probable that this technique was used to make the violence more tolerable and help it gain the crucial 12A certificate it needs in the UK for it's target market, however these periods of confusing 30 seconds/few minutes removed the impact of what was happening as it made no sense to me and actually became dull moments, even with the lingering scar of the opening battle.
Aside from these gripes, this film really does hit you between the eyes with its blatant moral compass against the rise of manipulative reality TV that will do whatever it can to get ratings, headlines and even weave into the fabric of state control systems. The second half of the film, for me, was astonishing as was lead Jennifer Lawrence. I think my aim is to now read the book/s so that I can picture my own World where the citizens don't have coloured candy floss hair!