|Katniss and Peeta are forced to train for the arena|
Katniss is thrown for a loop when her younger sister Prim, only 12 years old, is chosen, and volunteers to be the female contestant for district 12 in her sister's place. She is rushed through a series of hasty goodbyes and a whirlwind exposure to the excesses of food and fashion that the Capitol enjoys, all the time being filmed constantly. Seeing the Capitol depicted onscreen, with all of its inhabitants' garish costumes and make-up was a huge contrast to the blood and guts arena. The casting was perfect down the line, with Jennifer Lawrence a standout as Katniss. Josh Hutcherson, who is frequently called on to play a bratty (Zathura: A Space Adventure), even obnoxious (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) teen, was convincing as the sweeter, gentler Peeta, who knows that without Katniss he has no chance of winning in the arena.
|Katniss watches Peeta yuk it up in his interview with Caesar Flickerman|
By being herself, as stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) advises her, combined with a bit of showbiz that mentor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson, perfectly cast as drunken past Hunger Games champion) coaches her to employ, she shows compassion for some of her fellow contestants and flouts the rules at crucial junctures in the Games, much to the dismay of the controlling President Snow. Kravitz, sporting Cinna's trademark gold eyeliner, only had a few scenes with Lawrence, but he managed to make their relationship seem as close and true as the characters in the book. He made me wonder if author Suzanne Collins had taken the story in a slightly different direction, Cinna might have blown the Peeta/Gale/Katniss love triangle to bits and Katniss could have run off with him.
|Cinna wishes Katniss luck before she enters the arena|
The movie clocked in at over two hours and 20 minutes, but it was fast-paced and exciting all the way. As much as I knew what was coming, after recently reading the books, it still was suspenseful and edge-of-seat scary at times. It was interesting to see how certain stand-out scenes were translated to the screen — the "tracker jacker" wasps, Katniss's alliance with District 11's young Rue, the fabulous, burning gowns designed by Cinna that helped make Katniss "the girl on fire."
|Former District 12 champion Haymitch gives Katniss some support and advice before she heads off to the Hunger Games|
As much as The Hunger Games isn't really about which of two guys a girl should end up with, old Twilight habits die hard, as an audible and collective teenage girl sigh could be heard throughout the cinema (followed by quite a few adult giggles) when poor childhood friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) watched Katniss kiss Peeta on the jumbo television screen back home. As much as both Peeta and Gale (and Cinna) think Katniss is hot stuff, The Hunger Games is not a love story, but the story of a young girl, a hero, coming of age. It's great to see a brave and resourceful and female hero, and in IMAX. The Hunger Games may be controversial, but in a good way. It gets people thinking and talking.