First of all, I admit I haven't read the book all the way through (still too busy, sigh), but I already knew the plot and what was going to happen. It was like I had already watched the movie. For those who have read Suzanne Collins' book, the film apparently did an excellent job as a faithful adaptation, and fans loved the movie for that because they already love the story. On the other hand, those who haven't read the book at least went into the movie wondering what would happen to the heroine Katniss Everdeen. I was stuck in the middle.
My first impression was the unnecessary shakiness of the camera. It is obvious near the beginning of the movie (in a nonaction scene, by the way) and then is badly done again during an fighting sequence in which I had no idea who was doing what.
Another problem is that it took too long to actually get to the games. It does well fleshing out the backstory of Katniss, but is too lengthy for my liking (about half the movie). It also develops the character Gale Hawthorne in the beginning some but basically drops him from the story before I had a chance to care about him. I'm sure he'll play a larger role in the movie's sequel, though.
Although the libertarian storyline of fighting for freedom from a suppressed society is overdone in science fiction, it's interesting how the movie uses violence to portray that and the conflict that arises from Katniss and others who don't want to fight but have to. While the plot is similar to the Japanese novel and movie "Battle Royale," the way the violence and conflict are portrayed is uniquely different.
At last, the book likely delved into the thoughts of the characters to bring out the suspense. The movie couldn't do that and had to rely on expressions. Although the movie mostly did well in that respect, the ending twist seemed a bit emotionless to me.
Should you watch the movie? If you've read the book, you've probably already seen the movie and loved it. If you haven't read the book, it's likely worth watching for the suspense of how it's going to end. But would you watch it again? In my case: I'm sorry, I'll pass. I'd rather read the book.
Here's a trailer of the movie for those interested:
June 6, 2012, update:
Well I finally finished the book and want to add that the movie does really well keeping almost all the major details from the book action-wise, but the book creates lots of internal conflict within Katniss that the movie couldn't replicate and suffered from. The movie also visually lacks the dirty, starving characters described in the book, so true "hunger" seems to be missing in "The Hunger Games" movie.
Concerning my comment about Gale, Katniss often thinks about him during the games, but the movie doesn't go into her thoughts, so it feels like he's an afterthought. Also, the movie stays with Katniss for the most part like the book but had scenes of the game makers that are not in the book, straying from the Katniss-only perspective. What the book does an excellent job on is using description without boring, but the book has too many spots where it slows down the action too much with her thoughts.
Overall, I think the book is better, but its still didn't interest me as I thought it would, perhaps because I watched the movie before finishing it. To me, "The Hunger Games" is overrated, but everybody has their own preferences.