"The Hunger Games" -- Fans should be satisfied with director Gary Ross' adaptation of the first of Suzanne Collins' best-selling trio of novels about Katniss Everdeen, the independent, 16-year-old heroine fighting for survival in a futuristic, fascist society. The script adheres rather closely to Collins' book -- no surprise there since she co-wrote it with Ross and Billy Ray -- although it does truncate some of the subplots that provide its greatest emotional heft as well as soften the brutal violence of the games themselves, ostensibly in the name of securing a PG-13 rating.
Still, the makers of "The Hunger Games" have managed the difficult feat of crafting a film that feels both epic and intimate at once.
And Jennifer Lawrence is an ideal choice to play Katniss. She has a startling screen presence with her natural beauty, instincts and maturity beyond her years, yet there's a youthful energy and even a vulnerability that make her relatable to the core, target audience of female fans.
A post-apocalyptic version of North America has been divided into 12 districts. Every year, a teenage boy and girl from each are selected randomly at the "Reaping" and sent to the opulent, art deco Capitol, where they're made over, trained and primed to fight each other to the death until one is left standing in the sprawling arena.
When Katniss' younger sister, Prim, is chosen from District 12, Katniss volunteers in her place. Josh Hutcherson co-stars as Peeta, the baker's son and her male counterpart, with Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks among the strong supporting cast. PG-13 for intense violent thematic material and disturbing images -- all involving teens. 142 minutes. Three stars out of four.
-- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic
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