One of the things that gives The Hunger Games its impact is the same thing that makes Lord of the Flies and Toddlers & Tiaras so goddamn terrifying: The interconnected realizations that god, these kids are kids, and that at their core, most children are just as—if not more so—vicious and selfish and horrible and determined as the rest of us. Some profoundly fucked-up shit happens in The Hunger Games and its sequels, and not just in that clichéd, exploiting-the-children-in-peril sort of way, either: Simply put, the books' world is a brutal one, even for the kids. By aging up the cast, the filmmakers have accomplished two things: (A) ensured the movies won't be nearly as disturbing and weird as the books, and, (B) made it so that by the time Mockingjay finally gets made, Panem will look like a big, crappy retirement village. (Which, to be fair, could be interesting: I'd totally watch a movie about doddering geriatrics who're forced into a survival-of-the-fittest Olympics.)
(Also, yes, ever since the opening moments of Winter's Bone, I steadfastly refused to shut up about what a great Katniss Jennifer Lawrence would make. I'm still convinced she's gonna be great, but now that the whole cast is assembled, the age thing's starting to get to me.)
2) IT'S STARTING TO LOOK A WHOLE LOT LIKE TWILIGHT
See above image. More Team Peeta and Team Gale photos can be found here. ("For more on the men of The Hunger Games, pick up a copy of this week's issue," squeals Entertainment Weekly.)
3) IT'S GONNA WUSS OUT
It'll be PG-13. And yeah, the YA books would probably be rated PG-13 too, I know, but man, they can be rough, and it's gonna take the same sort of careful balancing of the latter Harry Potter films to make sure certain plot developments work while still keeping the films (ostensibly) family-friendly. There's a reason the most recent Harry Potter films are remarkable: Most movies aren't that good at balancing.
(Related, sort of: One of the other elements that's gonna be really tricky to balance is the voyeuristic edge of the story: One of the themes throughout the books is how, exactly, people watch and respond to violence. In dreading, watching, and enjoying the Hunger Games, Panem's residents' consumption of physical and emotional brutality parallels our own. (I mentioned Toddlers & Tiaras already, right?) Pulling that off in a book is easy compared to pulling it off in a movie, where even showing what happens carries the risk of celebrating the violence rather than examining it.)
As occasional Mercury contributor Jamie S. Rich recently noted:
One one hand, The Hunger Games has gotten a whole lot of press for every single casting announcement; on the other hand, the movie's still a long, long ways off, and the constant coverage has already started to wear people out and make 'em cynical. A good case in point, actually, might be this grumpy blog post.
(P.S. Team Peeta 4evr)