Review: 'The Hunger Games' should satisfy fans

March 20, 2012 4:04:58 AM PDT
Recently, I made the mistake of joking on Twitter about the possibility of a Team Peeta vs. Team Gale dynamic, referring to the two young men who hold special places in the heart of Katniss Everdeen, the 16-year-old heroine of "The Hunger Games."

Some people played along but many were appalled at the very idea of something as cliched and flimsy as a love triangle defining the young woman they've come to admire so fiercely from Suzanne Collins' best-selling trio of novels, the first adaptation of which makes its way to the screen this weekend amid great fervor and expectation.

I learned very quickly: These people do not mess around when it comes to Katniss.

Those same fans should be thoroughly satisfied with the faithfulness of Gary Ross' film, with its propulsive nature and vivid imagery: a mix of decadent costumes and architecture and harsh, unforgiving exteriors. At its center is Jennifer Lawrence, an ideal choice to play this strong, independent young woman. Those who saw her Oscar-nominated performance in 2010's "Winter's Bone" already were aware of her startling screen presence -- her natural beauty, instincts and maturity beyond her years. And yet there's a youthful energy and even a vulnerability that make her relatable to the core, target audience of female fans. Lawrence is endlessly watchable, and she better be, since she's in nearly every single shot of Ross' film.

And speaking of Ross, he may seem an unlikely choice to direct a movie about a futuristic, fascist world in which teenagers must fight each other to the death in an exploitative display of national loyalty and pride. He is, after all, the man behind such clever, charming and uplifting films as "Dave," "Pleasantville" and "Seabiscuit." But those movies, while based on high-concept premises, ultimately had pointed things to say about politics and society. The methodology of "The Hunger Games" may be more complicated but its darkly satirical message is unmistakable.

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