In the right hands, the movie based on the best-selling Suzanne Collins novel “The Hunger Games” has the chance to bring to life a remarkable story with layers of meaning, heavy themes and high suspense, action and adventure.
Director Gary Ross (“Pleasantville,” “Seabiscuit”) provides those capable hands, and he backs his storytelling with a strong cast, outstanding set and costume designs and interesting filming.
The movie won't disappoint the millions of fans captivated by the best-seller about a society celebrating a gruesome reality show that presents children's deaths as entertainment. It also will hold the attention of those who haven't yet plowed through the series that includes three books.
The books are classified as young adult fiction, and the movie is likely to draw a teen and tween crowd despite its violence. However, the themes and adventure run deep, and they should and will attract a much broader audience than adolescents. Mix “Lord of the Flies” with George Orwell's “1984” with the ceremonious, brutal fighting of Roman gladiators in ancient times with today's reality TV, and you have an idea of the story you're getting.
“The Hunger Games” stars Jennifer Lawrence as the heroine Katniss Everdeen, who lives in the poor District 12, hunts illegally to provide food for her mom and sister after her dad dies, and becomes the young female “tribute” to represent her district in the Hunger Games. Josh Hutcherson is Peeta Mellark, a baker's son selected as District 12's male tribute.
Lawrence's acting is strong enough to carry the arena scenes in which she wields a bow and arrow in the beautiful woods of North Carolina, and the emotional scenes in which she has to convey the horror she is facing against the other tributes at the hands of the evil, futuristic Capitol.
Elizabeth Banks is Effie Trinket, the happy Capitol representative sent to escort Katniss and Peeta to the gruesome games. Banks captures the vacuousness of the Capitol residents perfectly and humorously with her garish costumes, colorful hairdos and upbeat, congratulatory remarks about participation in the Hunger Games. “Happy Hunger Games!” she wishes often and eerily.