My husband had read the book so he had some familiarity with the plot line. If you are unfamiliar...The story is set in a dystopian world where the area of the would-be USA is divided into districts with distinct ways of life. An annual tradition exists wherein one boy and one girl are selected from each district to compete in an every-man-for-himself-style battle to the death.
The movie definitely has an interesting story and good actors that most of us like; Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, and Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence (NB: she did not win for this movie). If you like futuristic films or dystopia stories (think 1984 or The Lottery), The Hunger Games is a good choice. Personally, I'm not sure that I would recommend the film for children under 12 and maybe not even 12 and up if the child seems immature of has trouble separating reality and fiction. Here's why:
**Possible spoiler alert** (It's probably fine, but just in case...)
I personally found myself a little disturbed by the film. I knew the premise of the movie and I fully understood where things were going. I know that I was supposed to be disturbed by the carnival-like atmosphere of children fighting each other to the death. But here's the thing: I didn't feel like there was any moment during the film when the viewer was given the opportunity to make these connections and really think about how this world is like and unlike the world we live in. Vicious, realistic killing was happening between children in a movie aimed at children. People who may be too young to appreciate the complexities of the social allegory taking place. There is something safer about the books to me. A child who is reading them is likely to be intellectually advanced enough to grasp the whole meaning. Even if they are not, the book is only words and they must use their own imaginations to conjure the images they would see in the movie.
Another thing that bothered me was that there was no moment of goodness. I am sure this will come in the later films, but the first film was dark--both symbolically and literally. There was no point at which there was relief from the evil for the viewer and I felt emotionally deflated afterwards.
There are definitely cinematic merits to the film, but I think it should be viewed with caution in relation to age and development of the viewer and the individual's sensitivity to negative themes. In other words, if you are easily emotionally affected by fiction, this isn't the movie for you.