(Sci-fi teen adventure)
Our granddaughters were shocked to learn that we had never heard of "The Hunger Games." The book, the first in a trilogy by Suzanne Collins, had been on the best-seller list forever and is as popular as the "Harry Potter" and "Twilight" series.
With Katniss, its bold, beautiful, bright, teenage heroine, the story had great appeal to young ladies. But the movie, and the book, has reached beyond that limited audience to attract and appeal to a wider audience, including parents, grandparents and even teenage boys.
The story is exciting, tension-packed and with a variety of moral questions raised. It takes place in the future, long after "the uprising" has been quelled and the Panem nation has divided its territory into 12 districts.
Once a year, 24 participants, two from each district, between the ages of 12 and 18, are chosen to represent their people in battle until there is one left standing.
District 12 is the poorest district, and their chance of winning is nil. Katniss' young sister is picked in the lottery, but the brave older sister comes forward to take her place, along with Peeta, a young farm boy, who we learn along the way has a crush on her.
The battles take place in a forest and are shown on live TV. They are also manipulated by overseers, who often place obstacles in the way and sometimes come to the aid of a participant.
The story has elements of "Survivor", "Lord of the Flies,” reality TV and even "American Idol,” where innocent young people are placed in a do-or-die situation where they must compete against and beat their peers. Alliances are formed, and even friendships, even though the young innocents have been taught how to survive and kill.
There has been much controversy revolving around the violent nature of the film, even though most of it is handled discreetly, directly avoiding much of the bloodshed. But we do see the results.
The movie is about hope, which one character said is stronger than the fear to contain it. It is also about self-discovery and compassion. Instead of "May God be with you,” the participants are encouraged by "May the odds be ever with you.” And the odds are sometimes shifted in favor of the more elite districts.
Jennifer Lawrence is great as Katniss, a strong female role model who has become proficient as an archer, cunning in her quest to survive, yet loving toward her opponents.
As you may suspect, the battle comes down to her and Peeta. Collins writes us a good ending to the anti-totalitarian story, and we leave the theatre pleased with the outcome.
Rated PG-13, leaving parents the choice as to whether their 13- or 14-year-olds are mature enough to handle the violence and get the important messages.