Establishing the first movie in a hopeful franchise is no easy feat, especially when that franchise is based on a best-selling book series with millions of fans. Thankfully, director Gary Ross does a spectacular job of setting the table with “The Hunger Games,” not unlike the necessary work done by Chris Columbus on “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
First of all, Ross had the spectacular sense to cast Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen. Though Lawrence had just received an Oscar nomination and joined the “X-Men: First Class” prequel franchise, it would be “The Hunger Games” that truly turned her into a household name, and Ross saw the potential for her stirring portrayal of the rebellious but vulnerable Katniss. Establishing the roots between Katniss and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) and Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), not to mention the tyranny of President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and the ludicrously stylish and vapid dystopian world in which the Hunger Games exist, is key in setting up the more intriguing and powerful chapters to come.
While Ross may not have a remarkable visual style, he does a stellar job bringing us into the world of Panem and the suffering districts itching for a rebellion. Since “The Hunger Games” wasn’t afforded the higher budgets of its sequels, Ross does a fine job with the resources at his disposal to give us a perfectly satisfying movie that promises more to come, and it tees up director Francis Lawrence to make good on that promise in “Catching Fire.” (Ethan Anderton)