The DVD arrives Saturday.
Is Jennifer Lawrence the Katniss Everdeen envisioned in Suzanne Collins' novel "The Hunger Games"? Apparently fans -- or at least most of them -- thought so. The first film in the series, out Saturday on DVD and Blu-ray (Lions Gate, $31-$40), including midnight sales at some stores, took in $684 million worldwide at the box office.
But the jury is out for the less initiated into the story of the teen heroine in a postapocalyptic world. Lawrence is a terrific young actress, but it takes awhile to see her as an action figure in this movie from 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 such as "The Running Man" (a televised game of survival) and the Japanese cult favorite "Battle Royale" (teens forced to battle on an island), to novels such as 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 a few wealthy overlords dressed like they came out of a bad Andy Warhol party rule over everyone else. Because the poor dared to rebel once in the past, each year a lottery is held 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 that they are going to fight to the death in a controlled wilderness until only one is left alive.
None of this sits well with Katniss, who volunteers for the death trap when her younger sister is chosen.
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 young stars -- Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth -- with veterans such as Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Wes Bentley and Elizabeth Banks.
The Blu-ray and DVD include a number of extras about the "Hunger Games" world, including a conversation between Ross and film critic Elvis Mitchell.
Colin Covert's take: I don't think there has been a studio sci-fi film this idea-rich since "The Matrix." Viewers who like a side order of political allegory with their science fiction will find much to savor. So will romantics, fans of feminist heroines and action enthusiasts. "The Hunger Games" (★★★ 1/2 out of four stars) is that rare creation, an event movie of real significance.