The Hunger Games Reviews | Critics Sound Off on the Movie

Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are Hunger Games tributes for District 12.

The highly-anticipated spring film “The Hunger Games,” based on the best-selling novel by Suzanne Collins, is only a few days away from making it to local theaters, so what are reviewers saying? In short: the odds are in its favor (you’ll understand that line once you see the movie).

(Related: Liberal or conservative? Both sides trying to claim “Hunger Games” as their own — Why?)

If box office sales are an indication of a film’s worthiness, “The Hunger Games” is off to a good start. Forbes reports that the film has already amounted about $8 million in the United States from 1 million advanced ticket purchases — the average ticket price is $8. Forbes reports that the film depicting a dystopian society where a group of teenagers are forced to battle each other to the death on national television is expected to gross $100 million this weekend alone.

The Hunger Games Reviews | Critics Sound Off on the Movie

District 12 "Reaping" where one male and female tribute is selected to fight to the death against other tributes in Panem's annual Hunger Games.

Watch the trailer for a brief overview:

And here’s a clip from the flick:

So what are the critics saying? We’ve compiled excerpts from some reviews below.

AP Critic Christy Lemire: Satisfyingly true to the book:

Those same fans should be thoroughly satisfied with the faithfulness of Gary Ross’ film, with its propulsive nature and vivid imagery: a mix of decadent costumes and architecture and harsh, unforgiving exteriors. At its center is Jennifer Lawrence, an ideal choice to play this strong, independent young woman. Those who saw her Oscar-nominated performance in 2010′s “Winter’s Bone” already were aware of her startling screen presence — her natural beauty, instincts and maturity beyond her years. And yet there’s a youthful energy and even a vulnerability that make her relatable to the core, target audience of female fans. Lawrence is endlessly watchable, and she better be, since she’s in nearly every single shot of Ross’ film.

And speaking of Ross, he may seem an unlikely choice to direct a movie about a futuristic, fascist world in which teenagers must fight each other to the death in an exploitative display of national loyalty and pride. He is, after all, the man behind such clever, charming and uplifting films as “Dave,” ”Pleasantville” and “Seabiscuit.” But those movies, while based on high-concept premises, ultimately had pointed things to say about politics and society. The methodology of “The Hunger Games” may be more complicated but its darkly satirical message is unmistakable.

The script adheres rather closely to Collins’ novel — no surprise there since she co-wrote it with Ross and Billy Ray — although it does truncate some of the subplots that give the book its greatest emotional heft as well as soften the brutal violence of the games themselves, ostensibly in the name of securing a PG-13 rating. Still, the makers of “The Hunger Games” have managed the difficult feat of crafting a film that feels both epic and intimate at once.

Three stars out of four.

Read more of the AP review here.

The Hunger Games Reviews | Critics Sound Off on the Movie

Peeta Mellark in the Hunger Games arena.

Forbes: Roger Friedman says you’ll be left “hungry” for more:

“The Hunger Games“–maybe you’ve been thinking it’s like those “Twilight” movies. A cult hit trilogy of books, now coming to the big screen for teens. Well, it’s not. Gary Ross has directed a well made, action packed film with really great young actors and lots of fun characters. Violent? A little. But the violence is broad. The main thing is that “The Hunger Games,” which will open with big numbers on Friday, is just fine. It’s a sci-fi adventure set in the future. Author Suzanne Collins has taken “Lost,” and every reality show from “Survivor” to “The Amazing Race” to “Big Brother” and “Fear Factor,” dumped them in her Cuisinart and added a bit of “Romeo and Juliet,” topped with a sort of weird pinch of the Holocaust, and pressed Frappe. Did I forget also to mention the Christians and the Lions in ancient Rome? Another ingredient. But somehow it all works.

Unlike “Twilight,” there’s some intelligence at work there with director Gary Ross and the actors–principally Jennifer Lawrence (“Winter’s Bone”) and Josh Hutcherson (“The Kids Are All Right”_. But then there’s the supporting cast, a group of experts who play their parts broadly a la the “Harry Potter” or “Batman” movies–Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Toby Jones and Elizabeth Banks are having such a grand time that it’s infectious.The movie also marks the big screen return of Wes Bentley, who made a big impression in “American Beauty” ten years ago and then took a powder. It’s nice to see him back. Pop star Lenny Kravitz, now doing a little acting (“Precious”) is well cast as one of the game instructors.

Read more of Friedman’s review here.

The Hunger Games Reviews | Critics Sound Off on the Movie

Characters Katniss and Gale in "The Hunger Games"

NY Daily News: “True Shot to the Heart”:

It’s also a far more serious movie than the marketing, and mainstream mania, have led us to believe.

It’s better and scarier than its source book, and aims an angry eye at our bloodthirsty, watch-anything-and-cheer culture.

And there’s also pro-rebellion, anti-1% sentiment coursing through its blood. While the dark allegory within Suzanne Collins’ 2008 publishing phenomenon remains intact, it’s anchored by a remarkable performance from Jennifer Lawrence and — it has to be said — can’t-look-away action.

[...]

Director Gary Ross, whose “Pleasantville” is spiritual kin to this movie, may seem too grown-up for the material, but he’s a smart chaperone.

He allows for historical context — children registering to be slaughtered evokes a concentration camp — but doesn’t glamorize the horror of kids killing kids, and isn’t shy about dramatizing how a government can abuse and manipulate the poor.

Check out the rest of NY Daily News’ review here.

People Magazine: “Lives Up to Hype”:

Yes, The Hunger Games is feral, but its unwillingness to coddle its young audience is what made author Suzanne Collins’s trilogy such a hit. The movie sticks close to the first book, with detail-perfect renderings of the districts, the Capitol, the arena – and certainly of Katniss.

Lawrence, an Oscar nominee last year for Winter’s Bone, is a fan’s dream. With her soulful eyes and innate grit, she gives skilled hunter Katniss equal doses of complexity and appeal. Forget Twilight‘s insipid Bella Swan. This is a literary heroine girls can cherish.

Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and Lenny Kravitz have marvelous supporting roles, but the film isn’t always as strong as its stars. Its subtleties may get lost on viewers new to the story. Still, it’s so fiendishly engaging the even darker, scarier sequels can’t come fast enough.

See more of People Magazine’s review here.

Here’s another sneak peak offered by the film to prep you for the weekend’s festivities:

Heading out to see the movie this weekend? Let us know what you think.

Images are from the official Hunger Games movie.