‘The Hunger Games’ pulls the audience in

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By Andrew Li

Reporter’s note: This review’s intended audience is the people who aren’t familiar with the story, so there will be a lot of “no duh” moments for series veterans

What I liked: Each district and city sets its own mood; feels like you’re in Panem with the characters; tension skyrockets when the characters step into the arena for the first time.

What I didn’t like: Any problems are too small be significant.

At some point in history, the nation of Panem rises from the ruins of North America.  Twelve poor districts surround the capital city known as the Capitol; each district must annually select one teenage boy and girl as tribute for the gladiator-style Hunger Games after an apparent rebellion against the Capitol.  
As much as this doom for Panem is a boon for readers and moviegoers, it doesn’t feel so much like that. The movie somehow manages to suck you in right from the get-go.  
Fans of the books are most pleased. You get very different moods when the heroines Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are taken to a wealth of locations in Panem.  I had no idea how the movie would make me feel; how stressful the lives Katniss and Peeta would be in District 12. But I’m glad I saw it because nowadays, it’s not all that common for a movie to make you feel like you’re part of its reality.  
After a woman wearing a mountain of ugly makeup selects Peeta, and after Katniss volunteers as tribute for the 74th Hunger Games, they are whisked away to the Capitol where they meet the lethargic Haymitch Abernathy.  
After seeing “Zombieland,” it took me a few minutes to take Woody Harrelson seriously, but the bigger picture was a sudden conflict of thoughts.  
On one hand, Katniss and Peeta may never see their families and friends again, but on the other hand, the Capitol’s infrastructure is absolute.  The tributes all get makeovers, but Cinna’s (Lenny Kravitz) fashion genius takes the cake with Katniss’ and Peeta’s flaming outfits (girl on fire)!
After hearing Abernathy talk about survival and scoring kills, the tension of the imminent Hunger Games crept up behind me.  The best way to describe the feeling is like when AP tests and finals are approaching, and the stress increases as time counts down to them.  No amount of luxury in the Capitol will take that fear away from Katniss.
So after several days of training, the tributes are finally put on the playing field and the Hunger Games begin (may the odds be ever in your favor).  
Now those who read the book will know exactly who lives and dies, but this is where the tension boils over. Citizens of every district are watching the games and Katniss’ archery skills are up against teens that wield weapons such as machetes, knives and landmines. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.  
But remember, the movie still has you sucked into its world, so you actually feel like you’re in the arena, running around with Katniss, Peeta and whoever else you may come to like (take that, 3D and IMAX).  
This also means that you’re really going to care about the survivors and victims; while some deaths will leave you in tears, you’ll say some of the characters deserved to die.
 I was a little worried that Hollywood would screw up “The Hunger Games,” as it did with the book series, “Percy Jackson” and “Twilight,” so I was really happy that it didn’t.  “Hunger Games” director Gary Ross added substance to the characters instead of focusing too much on their (dashing good) looks.
Lawrence portrays Katniss a in way that allows the audience to look into the mind of the character. She’s a courageous female main character who fends for herself, rather than clinging to the cutest boy for survival.  
In contrast, Bella Swan just got wimpier.  Although the love between Peeta and Katniss is never explored that much, it’s okay because that’s not really the issue at hand. Who in their right mind would make out when instant death is on the line?  
“The Hunger Games” is one of the best thrillers I’ve seen, because it creates a different world and the actors do a great job in making the cast of characters feel very real.  It has in-depth that separates it from today’s action movies that go: boom, bang, boom, sex, done.  
After the end of “Harry Potter,” “The Hunger Games” is now our new film adaptation of a great book series that does everything right.