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The Hunger Games Poster: Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen
The Hunger Games: Lenny Kravitz (Cinna), Woody Harrelson (Haymitch) and Josh Hutcherson (Peeta)
The Hunger Games: Lenny Kravitz (Cinna), Woody Harrelson (Haymitch) and Josh Hutcherson (Peeta)

The first long trailer for The Hunger Games is out, and I have a few thoughts. First, I’m super excited, because this is the first time in a while where I’ve actually read the books on which a movie is based. As mentioned in my column over at Write On! Online, any “spare” time usually goes towards watching work-related movies or TV shows, so books have taken a pathetic back burner to everything else over the past decade. I aim to change that, though, starting with The Hunger Games, the futuristic wilderness thriller based on the book by Suzanne Collins.

I became a fan of Jennifer Lawrence after watching Winter’s Bone, the dark, gripping 2010 thriller whose four Oscar nominations gave me faith that small movies can indeed be rewarded for their greatness. But that was a tough year for Oscars, because all the films were authentic and wonderful. The King’s Speech took home the Best Picture award, but any one of them could have won, including The Fighter, Inception and True Grit.

But Winter’s Bone showed moviegoers and the film industry that Lawrence had the chops to pull off a role that required a wide range of emotions — which is just the sort of depth she’ll need for 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. As S. R. Johannes, author of the new young adult thriller Untraceable, noted in her post yesterday, Katniss “knows how to fight, she defends her family, and she sacrifices her life and dreams for what she believes. No matter what, she tries to stay true to herself and others.” Lawrence is the exact right person to embody Katniss Everdeen.

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We don’t get a huge look at the Capitol City, but the few glimpses in the trailer, including the hovercraft, are futuristic enough to satisfy my imagination. Likewise, the rustic vibe of District 12 follows my images from the book, as well.

I had my doubts about Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, partly because Kravitz hasn’t exactly been burning up the big screen lately, so it was hard to picture him as Katniss’ stylist. In 2009, he was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor for his role of Nurse John in Precious.  I’m very curious to see how he portrays Cinna.

Donald Sutherland as President Snow is kind of a no-brainer. After seeing him in the trailer, it’s hard to imagine anyone else doing it, though I don’t know that I pictured him with that shaggy mane. Woody Harrelson is an interesting choice for Haymitch, but with the diverse roles he’s done over the past 20 years or so, I have no doubt he can do pretty much anything that’s set before him. It’s hard to imagine him as the kid from Cheers so many years ago.

Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson are as I pictured Gale and Peeta, though to be fair, I read the books after I already knew about the casting, so they were in my mind as I was reading. But they’re both good characters, which I actually love. There’s no bad guy here, which is a nice change from a lot of commercial films, where characters are black and white, good or bad, smart or dumb with no in between.

We’ll see if Lionsgate and director Gary Ross can meet my high expectations for The Hunger Games. During his career, Ross has mainly been in the writer’s room rather than behind the camera. Most notably, he directed 2003’s Seabiscuit and 1998’s Pleasantville.  But he wrote the screenplay for The Hunger Games, working with author Suzanne Collins, so that bodes well for the final product.

The Hunger Games arrives in theaters March 23, 2012. It is not rated yet, but I’m guessing it’ll score a PG-13 rating. Even though there’s plenty of violence and peril, I can’t imagine that Lionsgate would slap an R rating on it and cut out the tween/teen portion of the story’s fanbase.  Take a look at the trailer and see what you think. Follow The Hunger Games on Facebook and Twitter, and check out casting notes, more images and info for The Hunger Games 101.

Images: Lionsgate

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