Since the Twilight franchise is coming to an end later this year (presumably, anyway) with the release of Breaking Dawn - Part 2, Hollywood could really use another box office juggernaut franchise. Step in The Hunger Games, an adaptation of the popular series of books by Suzanne Collins, which has all the ingredients to be just that and more than that it deserves it.
The film is set in the future where the “Capitol” chooses one teenage boy and girl from each of the 12 “districts” to fight in “The Hunger Games,” a live televised fight to the death. When her sister gets randomly chosen to take part, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to fight in her place.
What is perhaps The Hunger Games’ greatest asset is the world created. The dystopian future thing has been done a ton in film over the years but from the source material (which I admit I haven’t read) director Gary Ross has delivered a fully realized world that’s interesting, odd, uncanny (in a good way) and above all else believable. Sure, it’s a fantastical world but it takes itself seriously and that allows us as the audience to do the same.
Almost everything leading up to the actual big event itself had me gripped, from Katniss’ brave act of taking her sister’s place to the training sequences and her trying to make an impression on the Capitol – a fictional portrayal of a totalitarian government to rival V For Vendetta - and potential sponsors (people who could end up saving her life during the game by providing food and medicine etc.).
Key to this is the performance of Lawrence as Katniss, conveying a perfect mix of strength and vulnerability essential in making us care for and root for her. She is surrounded by a great supporting cast who all leave their mark including Woody Harrelson as Katniss’ alcoholic mentor, Elizabeth Banks as the flamboyant escort of “Tributes” from District 12 and especially Stanley Tucci, that ever-excellent character actor, as the eccentric host of a television show who interviews the Tributes. Although most of those around Lawrence are more outlandish in nature, the actors completely commit to the roles and, again, make it all believable.