The girl who was on fire

If you’re thinking The Hunger Games is just another teen movie, you’d be wrong.

Yes, it’s a movie where it’s fan base is tweens and teens, and yes, it’s about teens killing teens, but it’s not a teen movie.

It’s a damn good movie. Period.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, Hunger Games is the story of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), 16-year-old volunteer tribute from District 12 in the nation of Panem. As punishment for a rebellion that happened decades ago, each year a boy and a girl from each of the 12 districts must fight to the death in the Hunger Games, a nationally televised spectacle.

I crammed myself into a theatre last night with three of my girlfriends and oodles of 14-year-old girls. Normally I’d be annoyed, because teen girls often try my patience, but since they were there as much for Katniss as they were for Peeta and Gale, I cut them a little slack.

Except when they all started giggling and poking each other whenever something even remotely romantic happened on-screen.

Anyway. By the time the movie was over, the four of us agreed: the casting was spot on. SPOT. ON. Even the tiny faults I found, like wishing that Lenny Kravitz, as stylist Cinna, was younger, weren’t enough to detract from the performance. I wished the movie had been made a few years ago, when Kravitz was younger, because he was otherwise perfect. Wes Bently, as head Gamemaker Seneca Crane, was deliciously creepy. Elizabeth Banks! I love you! She was completely unrecognizable as Effie Trinket (and I totally want her shoes). And Woody Harrelson…I’ve been a Woody Harrelson fan for years. I adore him, and as drunken District 12 mentor Haymitch, I wanted more. Thank God he’s a central character throughout the rest of the trilogy.

Stanley Tucci. I’d heard from another review that the reviewer wished the film had more Stanley Tucci. With his blue hair and George Hamilton tan, I agree. I whole-heartedly agree. As master of ceremonies Caesar Flickerman, he was everything I’d wanted in the character brought to life. Big fat kiss for Stanley Tucci!

As Katniss, the film belongs to Lawrence, and with good reason. She’s carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders, quiet, self-contained, and never complaining about her burden. She just does. She survives. She’s terrified, and she hides it well. And she doesn’t play nice with others, but she does a decent job of faking it.

Quite frankly, there wasn’t anything I’d do differently. What was in the book that didn’t make it into the film was, in retrospect, extraneous noise. The four of us all lost it at the same moment, tears leaking out as an outpouring of grief turned to rioting in one of the outer lying districts. The action shots were jittery and the bloodbath at the cornucopia a whirl of chaos, just like you’d imagine it would be. And the Capital costumes…oh God. Talk about a spectacle.

Actually, there was one thing I had a problem with. In the book, the developing relationship between Katniss and Peeta leads to all sorts of confusion on Katniss’ part. In the film, either by necessity of keeping the run time down or just because the writers didn’t feel like it, it wasn’t as well developed as it could have been. They’ll have some work to do in Catching Fire when it comes to Katniss and Peeta.

Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it. You could just see the movie for yourself. In fact, you probably should.

Happy Hunger Games, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

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