Is Jennifer Lawrence the Katniss Everdeen envisioned in Suzanne Collins' novel The Hunger Games? Apparently fans — or at least the vast majority of them — thought so. The first film in the series, out on DVD Saturday, took in some $683.8 million worldwide at the box office.
But I think the jury is out for some of us less initiated into the story of the teen heroine in a post-apocalyptic world. Don't get me wrong, Louisville native Lawrence is a terrific young actress, but it takes awhile to see her as an action figure in this movie from director Gary Ross.
It's even hard to see that the director of Pleasantville and Seabiscuit had any real affinity for the material. The Hunger Games seems like a combination of a number of familiar stories, from movies like The Running Man (a televised game of survival) and the Japanese cult favorite Battle Royale (teens forced to battle on an island), to novels like Orson Scott Card's sci-fi Ender's Game (where children are trained to battle aliens as if playing video games) and William Golding's classic Lord of the Flies.
The Hunger Games is about a future dystopian society in which wealthy overlords dressed like they came out of a bad Andy Warhol party rule. Because the poor dared to rebel once in the past, a lottery is held each year in which two teens from each of 12 districts are selected. They are then trained in combat as the nation watches. Their stories are told as if they are Olympic athletes, except they are going to fight to the death in a controlled wilderness until only one is left alive.
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Katniss volunteers for the death trap when her younger sister, Prim, is chosen in the lottery.
No matter what you think of the concept, The Hunger Games has all the elements for an exciting picture, and occasionally it is.
The story also gave the filmmakers a chance to keep things interesting in the cast by mixing some young stars — Northern Kentucky native Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth — with veterans like Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Wes Bentley and Elizabeth Banks.
The Hunger Games may not be great art, but at least it has gotten kids and some adults reading.
The Hunger Games is $30.98 for the two-disc DVD and $39.99 for the two-disc Blu-ray. Both come with an UltraViolet digital copy.