Elizabeth Banks (left) and Jennifer Lawrence star in "The… (Murray Close, Lionsgate…)
With so many tickets sold in advance of the release of "The Hunger Games," reviews may be beside the point. With millions of readers already drawn into Suzanne Collins' trilogy about the post-apocalyptic world of Panem, the way has been paved for a successful release. Add to that a huge publicity storm -- I think the star, Jennifer Lawrence, has been on the cover of every magazine except "Muscle and Fitness" -- and you're looking at record ticket sales.
Still, movie critics insist on weighing in. They have to earn their pay, after all, by dropping references to Tarantino and the score. So here are excerpts from some reviews:
-- Tribune: Director and co-adapter Gary Ross, whose two previous features were the comic fantasy "Pleasantville" (1998) and the rosy Depression-era underhorse saga "Seabiscuit" (2003), turned out to be a smart match for the material. He does not pump the action for cheap thrills or opportunities to stoke the audience's blood lust.
-- Rolling Stone: The screen "Hunger Games" radiates a hot, jumpy energy that's irresistible. It has epic spectacle, yearning romance, suspense that won't quit and a shining star in Jennifer Lawrence, who gives us a female warrior worth cheering. That's more than you can say for the castration job that the suits did on Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" franchise.
-- Roger Ebert: “The Hunger Games” is an effective entertainment, and Jennifer Lawrence is strong and convincing in the central role. But the film leapfrogs obvious questions in its path, and avoids the opportunities sci-fi provides for social criticism; compare its world with the dystopias in “Gattaca” or “The Truman Show.”
-- Entertainment Weekly: This "Hunger Games" is a muscular, honorable, unflinching translation of Collins' vision. It's brutal where it needs to be, particularly when children fight and bleed. It conveys both the miseries of the oppressed, represented by the poorly fed and clothed citizens of Panem's 12 suffering districts, and the rotted values of the oppressors, evident in the gaudy decadence of those who live in the Capitol. Best of all, the movie effectively showcases the allure of the story's remarkable, kick-ass 16-year-old heroine, Katniss Everdeen.