| Survival of the fittest is put to the ultimate test in this action adventure based on the first novel of the trilogy penned by Suzanne Collins. This futuristic tale is set in a totalitarian nation comprised of 12 districts. The title refers to an annually televised event involving 24 combatants, ages 12 to 18, in a fight to the death competition leaving only one survivor.
This extreme commentary on the invasiveness of Big Government and society’s bloodthirsty voyeuristic thirst for reality viewing has more than its share of glamour and pageantry.
The whole process begins with a random drawing of a boy and a girl from each district. This is referred to as the “reaping” and the unlucky winners are called “tributes.”
The movie’s heroine is Katniss Everdeen (Oscar-nominated Jennifer Lawrence from “Winter’s Bone”). She is a skilled archer who for years has hunted for game in the nearby forest to feed her family. She shows her bravery and courage when she volunteers to be District 12’s female representative taking the place of her little sister Primrose (Willow Shields).
The baker’s son, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) is chosen as the male tribute from District 12.
Katniss and Peeta along with the other competitors become instant celebrities. They are assigned a support team consisting of an escort (Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket), a mentor (Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy) and a stylist Lenny Kravitz as Cinna).
A big public relations campaign is launched to attract rich sponsors, who provide weapons, tools, medical supplies and body armor. An introductory parade on horse drawn chariots is quite a spectacle to behold. All the contestants wear designer outfits and Katniss receives the nickname “girl on fire.”
Other key figures in this sci-fi drama include the all-powerful head of government Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland); the flamboyant talk-show host Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci); the gamemaster Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) and Katniss’ boyfriend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth).
The scenes of combat and violence are rushed with quick cuts and a blurry handheld camera. There is a high body count and an especially sad death.
Computer graphic imagery comes into play with a forest fire and a pack of ferocious beasts.
A romantic subplot develops in the last portion of the movie to ease the fear, tension and pervasive sense of panic and provide a slim ray of hope to the audience.
Lawrence is terrific in the lead role and gives us someone to root for to survive this horrible ordeal. The supporting players carve out memorable characters. The musical score, costumes and makeup are the other strengths.
The movie is about 30 minutes too long with an excessive running time of nearly 2 ˝ hours. It seemed to drag as it got closer to the finish line. Tighter editing would have made it a better film.
The signature and oft- repeated line of the movie is “May the odds be ever in your favor.”
With an opening weekend take of $152.5 million, it ranks third all-time behind “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-Part 2” and “The Dark Knight.” This blockbuster hit franchise takes over the cinematic baton passed by Harry Potter and “The Twilight Saga.”
Since this is the opening installment in the young-adult literature series, fans can look forward to at least two more film adaptations in the future.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"